Lithuania Cuts Off Russia From Transporting Critical Items


Kaliningrad — Russian territory that’s disconnected from the rest of the country and sits between Poland and Lithuania — will no longer be able to obtain sanctioned goods through transport routes running through Lithuania, Lithuania’s national government-owned railway company announced last Friday. The restrictions were set to take effect Saturday.

The sanctions in question are from the European Union, of which Lithuania is a member. The country, like Poland, is also a member of NATO, a key feature of which is the commitment among members to help defend a fellow member if they’re attacked — meaning Russia couldn’t attack Lithuania without involving the United States, a prominent member of NATO. Sanctioned materials now restricted from reaching Kaliningrad through Lithuania include metals, coal, and construction materials; Anton Alikhanov, governor of Kaliningrad, said somewhere around half the region’s imports would be affected, although he appeared to indicate a belief on the part of leadership that ships could effectively make up for lost land transit opportunities.

“Our ferries will handle all the cargo,” Alikhanov said on the day the restrictions took effect. Predictably, Russian leaders reacted with anger to the Lithuanian decision to take these actions, which amount, as laid out, to the enforcement of sanctions. “Russia will definitely react to such hostile actions,” Nikolai Patrushev, who’s secretary of the Russian Security Council, claimed on Tuesday. He didn’t provide any particular details about the precise form those threatened reactions would take. “The Lithuanian rail operator told The Washington Post that the movement of passengers and cargo not subject to E.U. sanctions would continue,” that publication says. In other words, it’s not a blockade on the territory. As European Union official Josep Borrell explained it, “Lithuania has not taken any unilateral national restrictions and only applies the European Union sanctions.”

“The transit of passengers and non-sanctioned goods to and from the Kaliningrad region through Lithuania continues [uninterrupted],” a statement this week from Lithuania’s foreign ministry says. “Lithuania has not imposed any unilateral, individual, or additional restrictions on the transit. Lithuania consistently implements EU sanctions, which have different transition periods and dates of entry into force.” European Union restrictions on “Russian steel and other ferrous metal products definitively entered into force on 17 June 2022,” the Lithuanian foreign ministry adds.

Throughout the currently unfolding Russian war against Ukraine, Russia has become the target of an expansive range of retaliatory economic actions from governments around the world. Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced the Commerce Department would be “adding 71 parties located in Russia and Belarus to the Entity List, effectively cutting them off from obtaining U.S.-origin items or foreign-made products derived from certain U.S. technology or software.” That list is just one method by which the U.S. has enacted penalties on Russian interests. There also remains consistent support across the planet for the Ukrainian people’s fight against Russian aggression. As the war unfolds, Russia is once again targeting Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. “Russian troops are again shelling residential areas in Kharkiv,” Maria Avdeeva, a research director at a non-profit think tank, shared on Twitter Tuesday. “Metro infrastructure damaged, numerous fires, lack of electricity, water, communications.”