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EU clarifies transit ban on Russian goods to Kaliningrad

July 13, 2022

The European Commission said Russia can continue rail — but not road — transit of sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad as long as they don't serve military purpose.

Cranes at the Kaliningrad Commercial Sea Port
EU member state Lithuania had blocked transport of some Kaliningrad-bound goods through its territoryImage: Vitaly Nevar/TASS/picture alliance

Russia may continue the transit of sanctioned goods destined for Kaliningrad through EU territory, a European Commission statement said.

The European Commission only stipulated that the goods not serve a military purpose.

"This guidance confirms that the transit of sanctioned goods by road with Russian operators is not allowed under the EU measures. No such similar prohibition exists for rail transport," the statement said.

The European Commission added, "Member States are responsible for the implementation of sanctions. To ensure that they are implemented as effectively and consistently as possible, the Commission provides regular administrative guidance."

Map showing Kaliningrad and the countries around the Russian exclave

Why is the European Commission weighing in now?

The statement on Kaliningrad comes after a row developed as Lithuania sought to enforce sanctions. In response, Russia complained that enforcing the EU's sanctions was tantamount to a blockade of Kaliningrad, Russia's heavily militarized Baltic territory that is separate from the rest of the country.

Earlier this week, Lithuania expanded its sanctions against Russia to include concrete, wood, alcohol and alcohol-based industrial chemicals. A government spokesman said it was merely a phase-in of previously announced EU sanctions coming into effect.

Russia warns Lithuania over Kaliningrad

How has Lithuania reacted to the EU's advice?

The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it would adhere to the advice given by the European Commission.

The statement noted that earlier policies blocking sanctioned goods were "more acceptable."

"Kaliningrad transit rules may create an unjustified impression that the transatlantic community is softening its position and sanctions policy towards Russia," Vilnius said.

How has Russia reacted?

Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, said the European Commission's updated recommendation to Lithuania on the transportation of goods to Kaliningrad was a "manifestation of realism and common sense," Russian state-run Interfax reports.

ar/fb (dpa, Reuters, AFP)