Kaliningrad blockade: why has Lithuania banned transit of goods to Russian port city - how has Russia reacted?

Lithuania which is a NATO member states it is just imposing EU sanctions on Russian goods

Russia has warned Lithuania that it will “take action,” over the ban on some goods being brought into the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

The threats were made by the Kremlin, after Lithuania, a NATO member, imposed a measure of EU sanctions on Russian goods.

Kaliningrad, which is located on the Baltic Sea and has no direct border with Russia, was annexed from Germany in 1945 and remains a Russian territory.

Through an agreement, the region receives much of its goods via train from Lithuania, however the latest EU sanctions, imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have hit Kaliningrad hard.

Here’s everything you need to know about Kaliningrad and what Russia has said.

Where is Kaliningrad?

Where is Kaliningrad? (Pic: NationalWorld / Mark Hall)

Kaliningrad is located on the coast of the Baltic Sea, with Lithuania to the north and Poland to the south.

Home to a population of around 430,000, it was originally part of Germany, up until 1945, when it was annexed by Russia after the Second World War.

The region played an important role during the Soviet era as a military zone and was closed off to outsiders.

Kaliningrad still plays an important role in the military, with the country’s Baltic Fleet being based there and it is home to Russia’s only ice-free sea-port.

The main way that Kaliningrad gets supplies is via train that travels from Russia and then through Belarus and Lithuania.

Why has Lithuania banned transit of goods to Kaliningrad?

Lithuania has explained that it was not banning goods, only implementing EU sanctions on Russian goods.

View from Lithuania side towards Kaliningrad in April 2022 (Pic: Getty Images)

Last week, they announced they would be banning goods that fell under EU sanctions from passing through their country to Kaliningrad.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU passed measures to sanction Russia for their role.

Since the war began in February, the EU has adopted six packages of sanctions against Russian goods.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis explained: “It’s not Lithuania doing anything: it’s European sanctions that started working from 17 of June.

“It was done with consultation from the European Commission and under European Commission guidelines.”

What items are on the EU sanctions list?

The EU have imposed sanctions on Russia after the country invaded Ukraine in February.

Here are some of the items, which are on the EU sanctions list:

  • Cutting-edge technology such as quantum computers, advanced semiconductors, high-end electronics and software
  • Machinery and transportation equipment
  • Technology needed for oil refining
  • Energy equipment, technology and services
  • Aviation and space industry goods and technology
  • Maritime navigation goods and radio communication technology
  • Dual-use goods which can be used by general population and the military, for example drones
  • Luxury goods such as cars and jewellery

What has Russia said?

There has been condemnation from both Kaliningrad and Moscow.

Photograph by Ukrainian photographer Maxim Dondyuk of Russia’s war in Ukraine are displayed as part of an exhibition at the railway station where the train from Moscow to Kaliningrad passes by (Pic: Getty Images)

In a statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has described Lithuania’s actions as “openly hostile.”

They added: “If cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests.”

As Lithuania is a NATO member, it’s unknown what action Russia might take.

The governor of Kaliningrad, Anton Alikhanov has said the ban would impact 50% of the items that Kaliningrad imports.