“We are ready”: Lithuanian President responds to Russian energy threats

If Russia disconnects Lithuania from the regional power grid in retaliation for blocking rail shipments of some Russian goods to Moscow's Kaliningrad exclave, the Baltic country will be prepared to deal with it, said Gitanas Nausėda, the country’s President, in an interview given to Reuters on Wednesday, June 22.

“We are ready and we are prepared for some kind of unfriendly actions from the side of Russia, disconnection from the BRELL System or other actions,” said the Lithuanian head of state.

BRELL is the electricity system shared between Russia, Belarus, and the Baltic States. In spite of having seceded from the Soviet Union over three decades ago and being members of the European Union for 18 years, Lithuania, as well as Latvia and Estonia, still had to rely on Russia for stable power supplies until last year, when Lithuania installed equipment on its power link to Poland to connect with the continental European grid in case Russia wanted to blackmail the country by cutting off its electricity and causing blackouts. In spite of Russia threatening Lithuania with unspecified retaliatory measures, President Nausėda is convinced that no military confrontation is expected, stating that Lithuania is protected by its status as a NATO member.

On Tuesday, June 21, Moscow threatened that would respond to the ban on the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU to the Kaliningrad exclave of the Russian Federation. The ban has been implemented by the EU following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and it covers the transit of steel and other ferrous metals. Since Kaliningrad is sandwiched between NATO members Poland and Lithuania, rail and road transit is the primary way of supplying the exclave.

As President Nausėda stressed, the implementation of sanctions should not affect bilateral relations between Lithuania and Russia, as the decision to implement the sanctions was not Lithuania’s alone to make. It was a joint decision of the European Union.

And now, of course, we are looking forward to implement [the] next stages of the sanctions and it would be very good that European Commission explains the content of the sanctions to the Russian authorities and probably it will remove some tensions which are arising right now,” said the Lithuanian President.