Lithuania accuses Russia of lying about rail ‘blockade’


Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has said Russian claims of a rail blockade of its territorial outpost in Kaliningrad are a lie.

Kaliningrad is on the Baltic Sea and uses a rail link to Russia via Lithuania for passengers and freight.

When Lithuania banned the transit of steel and other ferrous metals under EU sanctions last Saturday, Russia threatened to respond.

The Kremlin condemned the sanctions as illegal and unacceptable.

Ms Simonyte explained that passengers were still able to travel freely across Lithuanian territory from Russia to Kaliningrad and only about 1% of Russian freight was affected.

One senior diplomat in Brussels said that Russian talk of a blockade was disinformation and completely untrue.

“Lithuania is complying with the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia for its aggression and war against Ukraine,” the prime minister said.

EU sanctions on steel were imposed in March, but a three-month transition period was allowed for existing contracts to wind down.

Russia annexed Kaliningrad after World War Two in 1945 and roughly one million people live there.

It was not clear what Russian security council chief Nikolai Patrushev meant when he threatened a “serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania”.

The foreign ministry in Moscow said merely that retaliation would be practical as well as diplomatic. Regional governor Anton Alikhanov said that as well as reprisals, Kaliningrad would organize shipments by sea.

One option would be to disconnect Lithuania from the electricity network it shares with Russia, Belarus, and the other Baltic states, although officials in Vilnius have said for months they are ready to connect through Poland to the West European grid.

The Lithuanian prime minister told agencies that it was important not to overreact, as this was the latest in a series of threats used by Russia or Belarus to threaten their neighbors, such as attempted cyber-attacks on public institutions and utilities.

Estonia called on Russia to stop issuing threats and suggested Moscow was flexing its muscles ahead of next week’s Nato summit in Madrid, where Sweden and Finland hoping to get backing to join the Western defense alliance.




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