Lithuania will now allow the transport of sanctioned Russian goods to the exclave of Kaliningrad after the European Union released new guidance on the policy amid Russian threats of retaliation.
Since June 17, Lithuania had been enforcing transit bans on sanctioned Russian goods heading to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad through Lithuanian territory, which initially included coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology. The embargo then expanded to include concrete, wood, alcohol, and certain industrial chemicals.
Lithuania had stated that it was just enforcing European Union sanctions on Russian goods, with Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis telling reporters “It’s not Lithuania doing anything: it’s European sanctions.” Their Foreign Ministry also said that the transport restrictions did not impact persons or non-sanctioned goods, adding that everything had been done “fully in accordance with EU law.”
The restrictions were heavily criticized by Russia, who had also regularly threatened retaliation and to “take action to protect its national interests.” During this time, various Lithuanian government, military, public and private internet services and websites came under DDoS cyber attacks by the GRU-linked Russian hacker group Killnet. Ignitis Group, Lithuania’s largest gas and energy supplier, also faced a DDoS attack that was described as the “biggest cyber attack in a decade.”
The new guidance now says that restrictions on sanctioned Russian goods does not apply to transit to and from Kaliningrad, as long as volumes of sanctioned goods does not exceed a three year average on demand. Military and dual use technology that is sanctioned will remain restricted.
In response to the new guidance, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that “This decision, which removes restrictions on a certain range of products transported by rail, is a demonstration of realism and common sense.” Meanwhile, Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry criticized the move, saying “Kaliningrad transit rules may create an unjustified impression that the transatlantic community is softening its position and sanctions policy towards Russia.”