Kaliningrad-bound trains back on track after sanction update
The first Kaliningrad-bound train from Russia reached the Lithuanian border on Tuesday, 26 July. After a few weeks of uncertainty, this train marks the restoration of rail freight traffic between Russia and its exclave.
Lithuanian Railways confirmed the arrival of the Russian train, carrying otherwise sanctioned goods, to their country with a statement to the Lithuanian BNS news agency. “A five-wagon cement shipment from Russia to Kaliningrad is now being checked at Kena border post. The train is still at the post as the key check procedures are underway,” commented Lina Laurinaityte-Grigiene, spokeswoman for the customs department.
The short Kaliningrad chronicle
Lithuania started gradually banning the transit of sanctioned products on trains to and from Kaliningrad on Saturday, 17 June. “The transit of passengers and cargo goods, which are not subject to the EU sanctions, continues to be ensured. Sanctions imposed by the EU have different wind-down periods and different terms when they come into effect. In June, part of the sanction exemptions, which allowed to complete the transactions entered into before the dates set in the relevant regulations, expired,” explained Lithuanian Railways back then.
However, a few days later, the Lithuanian government and the European Commission entered a new consultation round to determine whether sanctions could apply to Kaliningrad-bound products. This happened after Russia reacted to the decision claiming it breached international agreements.
In the end, amid rumours that the decision could be reversed, fearing an escalation in EU-Russian relations, the Commission decided that no sanctions apply to Kaliningrad rail transit because it concerns transit between two different parts of the same country since Kaliningrad is part of Russia.
Specifically, the EU Commission explained: “road transport undertakings established in Russia are prohibited from transporting goods by road within the territory of the Union, including in transit. However, this ban does not apply to the transport of goods in transit through the Union between the Kaliningrad Oblast and Russia, provided that the transport of such goods is not otherwise prohibited under the Regulation. Transit of sanctioned goods by road is therefore not allowed.”
Additionally, the Commission continued regarding rail: “no such specific regime applies to rail transport on the same route, without prejudice to Member States’ obligation to perform effective controls as set out below, in conformity with EU law.”
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