Moscow has several options to break the blockade of Kaliningrad

Moscow has several options to break the blockade of Kaliningrad
Moscow has summoned EU ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer to the Foreign Ministry. The reason for this was the decision of Lithuania not to allow the EU-sanctioned cargos into Kaliningrad from the rest of Russia. These are, for example, fuel and building materials

Russia is still trying to resolve the problem by diplomatic means. However, there are already calls to break a land corridor to Kaliningrad through Lithuania by military means.

In the next few days, Moscow will conduct a “deep analysis” of Lithuania’s decision to stop the transit of goods between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of Russia, and the analysis will result in a response. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

The Sovfed has already suggested a tough response to Vilnius. “The European Union, if it does not immediately correct the insolent stunt by Vilnius, will itself disavow for us the legitimacy of all documents on Lithuania’s EU membership and untie its hands to solve the Kaliningrad transit problem created by Lithuania by any means we choose,” Senator Andrey Klimov, head of the upper chamber’s commission for protection of Russian sovereignty, wrote in his Telegram channel Monday.

Last Saturday, Kaliningrad Railway received a notice from its Lithuanian colleagues to stop the transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad. Up to 50% of the range of cargo, including construction materials, metals and, most importantly, fuel: coal, petrol and diesel, are prohibited for carriage via Lithuania. However, the Lithuanian side assured that all Russian transit shipments loaded until June 17 will go through the territory of the republic, as reported on Monday by Charge d’Affaires of Russia in Lithuania Sergey Ryabokon. Then comes what the diplomat called a partial blockade of the Russian exclave.

In practice, the problem created by the Lithuanians has begun to be overcome, as announced on Monday by the Governor of the Kaliningrad Region, Anton Alikhanov. According to him, those goods from the region that are not subject to the EU anti-Russian sanctions will still go to greater Russia by rail. Thus, ferries plying the Baltic Sea between the Kaliningrad and Leningrad regions will be freed for sanctioned cargoes. Already on June 25 a new vessel, the fifth in a row, will be ready to enter the ferry line from St. Petersburg – it is planned to deliver goods to Baltiysk and Kaliningrad, Alihanov informed. Ferries running between Baltiysk in Kaliningrad region and Ust-Luga (Leningrad region) bypassing other countries can carry any cargo except radioactive ones, the press service of Oboronologistika said. No shortage of goods is expected in the region, the authorities have worked out all possible delivery options, Alikhanov assured.

“While there is a dispute between Moscow and Vilnius as to whether cargoes are extraterritorial in nature, Russia will have to transport goods by sea,” economist Vasily Koltashov told VZGLYAD newspaper in a commentary. – Operators and regional authorities make it clear that there won’t be any problems here. I think that there are enough ships in Russia, and more may be bought if necessary. But the thing is that it will make goods much more expensive, because now we will have to deliver goods by railway to the port, then transport them by ferries to Kaliningrad port and then deliver them from the port again”.

The residents of the Russian exclave themselves are most afraid of commodity shortages “because of the lack of logistics before the new transport chains across the Baltic are developed,” Kaliningrad political analyst Alexander Nosovich wrote in his Telegram channel. “In fact, we are all calm,” the regional expert notes. – There is no panic. I haven’t noticed it from my acquaintances or passers-by, and even the Kaliningrad media are writing less about the transit ban than one might have expected. There is anxiety, but an alarming background for a region sandwiched between two of the most hostile NATO countries to Russia is the norm.”

The problem of supplying the region is being addressed, but the fact remains that Vilnius is imposing a blockade, clearly breaking with previous agreements between Russia and the European Union: to guarantee the preservation of transit traffic between the Kaliningrad exclave and the rest of Russia if the Baltic state joins the EU. Governor Alikhanov reminded his Baltic neighbours of this in particular. The agreements on partnership and cooperation between Russia and the EU of June 24, 1994, expressly provide for an obligation “to ensure free transit of goods through its territory,” deputy speaker of the Council of the Federation Konstantin Kosachev pointed out.

Vilnius, for its part, claims that it is acting solely in pursuance of the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the European Union. In the same vein was a rather sly statement by Josep Borrell, the head of the European diplomacy. “Lithuania is not guilty of anything, it’s … carrying out the instructions of the European Commission. We will positively double-check that all these instructions are correct,” said High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs. At that, Borrell emphasized that there is no blockade of Kaliningrad, because “only transportation of those goods has been stopped, the export, import and transit of which through the EU territory is prohibited.”

“The European Union has been in need of renovation for a long time, so we can start doing it with modification of some structures in its eastern part”, said Andrei Kolesnik, the member of the State Duma from Kaliningrad. According to the parliamentarian, “Lithuania should start ignoring as a state and do what we need”. “We ceded the airspace to them for nothing, we started flying around their territory, not through it. And they saw it as a weakness and started climbing on their necks further. On the whole, if it suits Russia’s interests to force a railway through Lithuania, to make a corridor,” the interlocutor said.

Kaliningrad political scientist Nosovich considers that in response to the blockade of Kaliningrad, Russia may denounce the agreement with Lithuania on the border of 2003, and this way the borders of Lithuania will be in a de jure suspense. The expert reminds that the borders of the Baltic republics in their current form appeared after joining the USSR in 1940, while modern Lithuania considers itself as the successor of the pre-war Lithuanian Republic of 1918-1940. “The mentioned borders include … a strip of land between Kaliningrad region and Belarus”, – Nosovich pointed out. The political scientist refers to the opinion of professor Alexander Zolov of the Kaliningrad Kant University, who reminds that part of the territories were transferred from the Belarusian SSR to the Lithuanian SSR. “And now the question. Are they at least approximately aware in Lithuania of what they are getting into by agreeing to participate in this game of promotion between the West and Russia?” – Nosovich added.

According to Koltashov, Russia could start by fixing and counting all additional costs from the first day and then invoice Lithuania. “Considering that the final economic damage will be caused to several million people, the bill may turn out to be one that Lithuania will never be able to cover.

This, in turn, may well cause mass protests of Lithuanians, as they already perceive very negatively the involvement of the country’s authorities in the sanctions attack on Russia,” he noted.

The analyst added that the last stage of all events in this dispute could be a forceful decision of Russia. “Moscow is well within its rights to declare: the blockade of Kaliningrad violates all basic international norms. Therefore Russia may decide to militarily force a railroad corridor through Lithuania, taking control of those branches, which carry goods to the westernmost Russian region, and decision-making centres in Vilnius, so that no cargoes are crossed. It makes no difference whether NATO is not NATO or the EU is not the EU. In fact, only this answer of Moscow will be adequate to the insolent behaviour of an extremely insignificant state, which, moreover, is fully dependent on the US and the EU in terms of legal personality and decision-making”, the interlocutor said.

Rafael Fakhrutdinov, VZGLYAD

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