Tuesday, August 16

Germany promotes an exception to Russia sanctions for Kaliningrad


Correspondent in Berlin

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During the NATO summit in Madrid, Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz has been promoting an exception to the sanctions against Russia applicable to Lithuania that would once again allow the transit of goods from Kaliningrad to Moscow. In compliance with European sanctions, Lithuania has banned since June 17 the transport of goods such as construction materials, metals and coal through the railway route between Moscow and Kaliningrad and road transport are also affected by the ban, from which air and sea routes escape.

The German Government fears that the conflict with Russia could continue to escalate for this traffic dispute and for Moscow to use military force to create a land corridor, which would extend the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders and bring us closer to a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.

The chancellor has repeatedly emphasized that one of his most important goals is to prevent NATO from becoming a party to the war. In Madrid he declared that “it is about traffic between two parts of Russia” and that, in this sense, the European Union must establish “the necessary framework conditions” for a “de-escalation dynamic”.

He did not mention that there are German soldiers stationed in Lithuania who could be involved in a possible conflict and, after discreet consultations in Madrid, Germany is now putting great diplomatic efforts into the possibility of the European Commission publishing a guide, as a legal explanation of the fourth package of sanctions, in which it is clarified that Moscow-Kaliningrad transport is not affected by the sanctions. However, there is still no agreement with the Lithuanian government.

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The matter is sensitive because the commission wants to avoid embarrassing the Vilnius government. “The Germans are putting pressure on the Commission to ensure that the sanctions are not applied to Kaliningrad. They fear that their soldiers may enter into a military conflict and be the target of an attack by Russia,” say sources close to the Lithuanian government. Berlin “does not share the Lithuanians’ assessment of the fact that the transit of sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad is part of the EU territory,” sources from the Foreign Ministry clarify, “this is a transport from Russia to Russia» that is allowed.

Lithuania’s fear

But from the Lithuanians’ point of view, Russia was well prepared for the sanctions to come into force and the danger of escalation is not so imminent. Transit documents handled by the Vilnius government show steel imports more than doubled shortly before June 17. The steel transported went, in fact, from 38 or 40 tons to 90 tonsIt’s in May. The governor of Kaliningrad, on the other hand, puts the impact of the sanctions on imports from his territory at 50%.

Lithuania now fears that any lifting of sanctions could worsen the security situation. “Sanctions must be applied. No decision should undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the EU’s sanctions policy,” a Lithuanian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman recently said. For its part, the Kremlin has criticized Lithuania’s actions as “illegal” and threatened with taking action. The secretary of the Russian Security Council, in his last visit to the area, has declared that there will be “serious consequences” against a “hostile” and “unprecedented” measure. “The consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania”, he threatened.

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