Eastern Express 22.06

Lithuania has recently began enforcing a ban on the transit of goods - covered by EU sanctions against Russia - which pass through its territory to Kaliningrad, an exclave of the Russian Federation wedged between the territories of Lithuania, Poland, and the Baltic Sea.

Following the seizure of the German city of Königsberg in East Prussia in 1945, the area in question was incorporated into the Soviet Union. Renamed Kaliningrad, the city and region are today part of Russia, having been previously administratively attached to the Russian SSR. This was due to Stalin understanding the strategic importance of the area. There were rumours that nuclear warheads had also been placed there.

For anything to be transported between Kaliningrad and “Big Russia” (how locals refer to the larger portion of the country) it has to either be sent by plane, by ship, or travel through the territory of another sovereign state. Usually, this is Lithuania.

However, last Saturday Lithuanian Railways announced it would enforce a ban on transit of goods subject to EU sanctions that were agreed upon back in March.

The Kremlin’s reaction was livid. Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, described the embargo as a violation of the 2002 joint statement by Russia and the European Union, protecting the transit of people between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad. But the Lithuanian Foreign Minister has repeatedly stressed that the sanctions only affect specific goods, and not passenger travel. Russian state media called for a military response while the Kremlin announced it would be preparing retaliatory measures.

Eastern Express guest

TVP World has invited Andrius Prochorenko, a political analyst from the Eastern Europe Study Centre, to shed more light on the issue.