Russia Ukraine conflict

Rail freight via Lithuania can be diverted to ships: Kaliningrad minister

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An official in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad said on Thursday that goods banned from transit across Lithuania because of European Union sanctions can be “quickly rerouted onto ships,” the state-owned TASS news agency reported.

TASS quoted Kaliningrad region Minister of Infrastructure Development Yevgeniya Kukushkina as saying that around 30 percent of Kaliningrad’s freight imports were affected.

“This volume can be quickly redirected onto ships,” she said. Kaliningrad has a port on the region’s Baltic Sea coast.

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EU member Lithuania banned the transit of steel and other ferrous metals to neighboring Kaliningrad across its territory from Russia on June 18, after EU sanctions against Moscow came into effect.

Moscow called the move a “blockade” of its exclave, which has traditionally depended on transport links to and from Russia that cross Lithuania, and threatened retaliation.

Kaliningrad governor Anton Alikhanov said at the time that the ban would cover around 50 percent of the items that Kaliningrad imports.

On Tuesday, the head of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, warned on a visit to Kaliningrad that Russia would take “appropriate measures” that would have “serious negative influence on the population of Lithuania.”

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte tweeted a statement on Wednesday that Russian claims of a blockade were false.

She said passenger transit continued uninterrupted, and that the goods affected amounted to only 1 percent of total Russian freight transit to Kaliningrad.

The 27-member EU and other Western powers have imposed a barrage of financial, economic and personal sanctions on Russia and its officials in response to its decision to send tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24.

Heavy fighting since then has killed thousands of troops and civilians, devastated towns and cities, and driven almost a third of Ukraine’s population from their homes.

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