The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday blamed the US for Lithuania’s decision to enforce EU sanctions on goods traveling through its territory bound for Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.
“The so-called ‘collective West’, with the explicit instruction of the White House, imposed a ban on rail transit of a wide range of goods through the Kaliningrad region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the US has led a Western sanctions campaign against Moscow, although it’s not clear if the US explicitly told Lithuania to place the embargo on Kaliningrad. Lithuanian officials said the decision was made after consultations with the EU’s European Commission.
Comments from Lithuania’s president suggest that the Baltic nation wouldn’t have gone through with the embargo if it weren’t a treaty ally with the US under NATO. “I do not believe that Russia will challenge us in a military sense, because we are a NATO member,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said when discussing potential Russian retaliation.
Kaliningrad officials have estimated that the ban will impact between 30-50% of goods that travel to the enclave through Lithuania by rail, and they plan to offset the ban by rerouting sanctioned goods to be shipped by sea. The restrictions apply to coal, steel, caviar, alcohol, and other goods. It is expected to expand to more items as the EU is planning more sanctions against Russia.
Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alikhanov said Friday that he expects the EU will amend its sanctions to include exemptions for the Russian enclave. He said the EU has made previous commitments guaranteeing the transit of goods to Kaliningrad.