LONDON (Reuters) – NATO member Russia warned Lithuania on Monday that unless transport of goods to Russia’s Baltic stronghold of Kaliningrad is quickly restored, Moscow will take undisclosed measures to defend its national interests.
With East-West relations dropping to their lowest level in half a century due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Vilnius banned the transport of EU-sanctioned goods through Lithuanian territory to and from the backwaters, citing EU sanctions rules.
The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Lithuania’s top envoy in Moscow to lodge a protest, while the Kremlin said the situation was too serious.
“The situation is more than serious,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded that Vilnius immediately retract what it described as an “outright hostile” move.
“If the transit of cargo between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, Russia reserves the right to take measures to protect its national interests,” she said.
Kaliningrad, formerly the port of Koenigsberg, the capital of East Prussia, was captured by the Red Army from Nazi Germany in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union after World War II. It is sandwiched between NATO members Poland and Lithuania.
Lithuania said it was only implementing EU sanctions, part of a raft of measures aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.
“Lithuania is not doing anything: European sanctions started on June 17,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters in Luxembourg.
“This was done in consultation with the European Commission and under the guidance of the European Commission,” Landsbergis said.
Landsbergis said the state-owned Lithuanian Railways has told customers that from June 17, sanctioned goods such as steel and iron will not be allowed to transit Lithuania.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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