The only Russian region that exists as an exclave without a land border with other regions has found itself in a difficult situation due to the sanctions imposed against Russia.
Official: transit ban
Lithuanian Railways (“Lietuvos geležinkeliai”) officially notified the Kaliningrad Railway (a branch of Russian Railways) that from June 18 transit passage of part of the cargo through the territory of the republic to the Kaliningrad region and back will be stopped.
According to the governor of the Kaliningrad region, a variety of goods fell under the ban – building materials, cement, metals, a number of other goods important for construction and production. In total, the restriction affects up to 50% of the entire range of goods that are in transit.
The official reason for the suspension of transit is the sanctions against Russia. As part of the fifth package of EU sanctions, the import of cement, timber, coal and other goods from Russia was banned. But in this case, we are not talking about imports, but about the transit of goods from Russia to the Russian exclave.
According to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, the ban on the transportation of goods was adopted after consultations with the European Commission, and was introduced under its control. True, today the department made a new statement: that it did not introduce additional restrictions on cargo transportation, and that unauthorized transit of goods is not limited.
In political circles in Russia, the news was reacted quite sharply:
- Governor of the Kaliningrad Region Anton Alikhanov called the decision of the Lithuanian authorities illegal;
- Vice Speaker of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev stated that Lithuania had violated a number of international legal acts. Including – an agreement on partnership and cooperation between the Russian Federation and the EU, an agreement on tariffs within the framework of the WTO and international transport conventions. In general, he called Lithuania the flagship of the destruction of international law;
- Senator Andrey Klimov stated that by this decision the European Union “untied the hands” of Russia in order to solve the problem “by any chosen means”;
- Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov considers that the actions of Lithuania will be considered as an element of the blockade. He called the decision unprecedented, and a violation of “everything and everything.”
A little later he reacted to this and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The Foreign Ministry strongly protested the introduction of a ban on the transit of goods by Vilnius, calling the measures taken by Lithuania “openly hostile.” And once again, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs threatened that Russia would take action to protect its national interests if the transit of goods to the Kaliningrad region through the territory of Lithuania was not ensured in full.
How serious is the problem?
The problem of transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of Russia will always exist – simply because the region is an exclave that does not have land borders with other regions of the Russian Federation. Transport communication with the region is possible in three ways:
- railway – through the territory of Belarus and Lithuania. Passenger traffic in this direction has recently resumed, the train runs through the territory of Lithuania with technical stops (it is impossible to get off there), until recently, freight traffic was carried out in accordance with the agreement of 2003, and the sanctions of April 2022 contained a separate exception for this direction;
- air – noticeably more complicated due to the closed sky for Russian airlines (the flight distance has increased significantly due to the need to fly around the Baltic countries);
- nautical – while the ferry line “Ust-Luga – Baltiysk” operates without restrictions.
A significant part of the cargo was transported by rail to the Kaliningrad region, and now it will be impossible to transport up to half of the range. The authorities of the region are already working with the Ministry of Transport, Russian Railways, Rosmorport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the current situation.
One of the first initiatives was strengthen the ferry lineby adding new ships to it. But the route takes about a day and a half, and the fare on it is quite significant – for example, transporting a car costs 33,800 rubles, and a truck (up to 17 meters) – 69,500 rubles plus 5,900 rubles for forwarding in the port.
Given the potential problems, Alikhanov has already warned of a possible increase in the cost of logistics and said that the region, if necessary, will turn to the federal center for transportation subsidies.