Russia pledges to respond to Lithuania’s goods transit ban

MOSCOW (AP) — Lithuania’s decision to ban Moscow from shipping certain goods by rail to Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad will prompt a response that will have a “significant negative impact” on the Lithuanian people, said a senior Russian security official on Tuesday.

The ban on goods subject to European Union sanctions was announced by Lithuanian authorities earlier this month and prompted an outpouring of angry retorts from Moscow, with the Kremlin denouncing the move as unprecedented and illegal.

Nikolai Patrushev, the powerful secretary of the Kremlin Security Council, visited the Kaliningrad region on Tuesday and pledged at a national security meeting to take action against the ban.

“Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions,” Patrushev said. “Relevant measures are being developed in an inter-agency format and will be adopted shortly. Their consequences will have a significant negative impact on the Lithuanian population.”

He did not specify what action Russia might take. Patrushev will report the results of his trip to Kaliningrad to President Vladimir Putin, his office said.

Separately, the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday summoned the European Union Ambassador to Russia, Markus Ederer, and “expressed a resolute protest” against the transit ban. The ministry said in a statement that it “demands an immediate resumption of normal operation” of transit, failing which “retaliatory measures will follow”.

Kaliningrad, home to some 430,000 people, is isolated from the rest of Russia and borders EU members Lithuania and Poland. Trains carrying goods for Kaliningrad pass through Belarus and Lithuania; there is no transit through Poland. Russia can still supply the exclave by sea without falling under EU sanctions.

The Lithuanian government underlined in a written statement on Tuesday that “the transit of non-sanctioned passengers and goods to and from the Kaliningrad region via Lithuania continues uninterrupted” and that the ban on the transit of sanctioned goods n was only part of the EU’s fourth sanctions package. against Russia.

Senior Lithuanian officials have denounced Russia’s reaction to the measure as an attempt by the Kremlin to end a propaganda campaign trying to create an image of a “blockade” primarily for internal consumption.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas tweeted on Monday that “European countries may continue to be bullied by Russia”…but “let’s not lose the ability to separate disinformation and propaganda from real possibilities.”

The country’s prime minister, Ingrida Simonyte, has dismissed claims that the Kaliningrad blockade is a product of Kremlin propaganda.

“It’s just that EU sanctions came into force on some of the goods included in the package, namely steel and ferrous metals. The transport of all other goods not authorized or not yet subject to sanctions continues, as does the transit of passengers,” she said, noting the great irony behind Russia’s references to international treaties.

“I don’t know if there’s an international treaty left that Russia hasn’t violated yet,” Simonyte said.

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