20 Jun 2022 15:56

Lithuanian FM explains ban on railway transit of Russian steel to Kaliningrad by EU sanctions

VILNIUS. June 20 (Interfax/BNS) - The ban on the railway transit of steel and ferrous metal products between Russia proper and the Kaliningrad region via Lithuania is not a decision made by Vilnius but part of the European Union's sanctions on Russia, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

"Firstly, these are not Lithuania's actions, these are European sanctions applied from June 17. And the sanctions are currently applied by the railway company, which has informed its clients that the goods under the sanctions from June 17, which are steel and other products manufactured of iron ore, won't be imported through Lithuania any longer. This is being done in consultations with the European Commission and in line with its decisions," Landsbergis said before a European Union ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

The transit ban was announced back in mid-March as part of the fourth package of the EU sanctions, BNS reported with reference to the Lithuanian customs department.

The EU sanctions adopted on March 15 imposed restrictions on Russian steel and other ferrous metal products under contracts concluded before June 17, and they cannot be transported across EU territory after that date, a department spokesperson said.

"Land transit between the Kaliningrad region and other regions of Russia has not been stopped or blocked. Transit of passengers and cargo that are not under the EU sanctions is continuing. Lithuania has not imposed any unilateral, individual, or additional restrictions on this transit. We have not received any additional directives and are not undertaking any further actions," Lina Laurinaityte-Grigiene, spokesperson for the Lithuanian customs department, told BNS.

The same ban will take effect with regard to cement, alcohol, and some other products on July 10, with regard to coal and other solid fossil fuels on August 10, and Russian oil on December 5, she said.

Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alikhanov said on Telegram last Friday that rail transit of goods to the region from other parts of the Russian Federation would be significantly constrained by the Lithuanian authorities.

"Lithuanian Railways has notified Kaliningrad Railways that, starting 0:01 a.m. tomorrow [June 18], they would halt transit of a large list of goods under European sanctions to the Kaliningrad region and from it. They [the Lithuanian authorities] have supposedly received clarifications from the European Commission that the permission based on which transit was possible before does not apply to the goods barred from being imported to the EU," Alikhanov wrote on Telegram.

Preliminary estimates show that the ban affects 40% to 50% of all transit cargo, including construction materials, cement, metals, and other important commodities, he said.