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Lithuania banned the transit of trains to and from Kaliningrad. The ban has been in effect since Saturday, 17 June. Western sanctions on Russia are behind Lithuania’s decision which state authorities have not openly confirmed. “The ban will impact around 50 per cent of Kaliningrad’s imports”, explained Anton Alikhanov, the Russian exclave’s governor.
The decision became known after LTG Cargo, the freight branch of state-owned Lithuanian Railways, sent a relevant document to its customers, reported Reuters. Before that, the railway company and the Lithuanian government were in close consultation with the EU Commission regarding some clarifications on how to apply the European sanctions on Kaliningrad’s cargo transit.
Four months into sanctions
Despite the EU and the US imposing sanctions on Russia since almost day one of the war in Ukraine, Kaliningrad was something of a grey zone. There was no clear overview of whether transit was possible, while companies mentioned or implied that trains would still arrive there and distribute their cargo further by sea connections.
One could say that under these conditions, business kept running as usual through the Russian exclave. However, was this the case? Traffic through Kaliningrad running, as usual, could, in fact, be an effect of companies trying to get their equipment out of Russian territory in the context of the sanctions. As a result, Kaliningrad concentrated a backlog of containers that kept trains and services running.
Four months after the first sanctions were imposed on Russia, Lithuania decided to cut down the rail ties with Kaliningrad after consulting with Brussels. According to Reuters, the cargo most impacted will be building materials, cement, metal, coal and advanced technology.
We can still do it by sea
Anton Alikhanov, Kaliningrad’s governor, stressed that the transit ban will affect approximately 50 per cent of the exclave’s imports. Nevertheless, despite the substantial impact, he was optimistic that imports and exports would keep running through sea connections with Russia.
Kaliningrad is a small piece of land between Poland and Lithuania. Its only overland gateway to Russia was rail transit via Lithuania, which is now, if not completely stopped, at least substantially reduced. The Russian exclave started gaining publicity and importance during the past few years when it emerged as an alternative Silk Road gateway for Europe. However, with the new status quo that global geopolitics and the war in Ukraine set up, its role is also changing for the time being.
This article first appeared on www.railfreight.com
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