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Russia threatens Lithuanians over blockade of Kaliningrad

Estonia denounces an airspace violation at height of Baltic tension
Vladimir Putin

PHOTO/FILE  -   Russian President Vladimir Putin

"There will be consequences," is the threat projected by Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Tuesday after a visit to the city of Kaliningrad, which is subject to a blockade of goods by Lithuania and Poland, the two NATO member states that surround it. The railway line connecting Kaliningrad to the rest of Russian territory, which runs through Belarus and Lithuania, has been subject to a cut-off of goods such as coal, steel and luxury goods because of sanctions agreed against Russia in the European Union.

The Lithuanian government began restricting the passage of these sanctioned goods on 18 June, which, according to the Kaliningrad authorities themselves, already affects 50% of the region's imports. The city's governor, Anton Alijanov, warned that Moscow could take "quite obvious" measures that would be "extremely painful" for Lithuania, as has happened. Patrushev announced that "Russia will respond to these hostile actions" and that "their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania".

AP/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO - El secretario del consejo de seguridad de Rusia, Nikolai Patrushev, en la IX conferencia de Moscú sobre seguridad internacional en Moscú, Rusia, el jueves 24 de junio de 2021
AP/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO - Russia's security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev at the 9th Moscow conference on international security in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 24, 2021.

Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also denounced Lithuania's actions, saying that "they are behaving aggressively" and that "their behaviour crosses the boundaries of unfriendly and contrary to international law: it is aggressive and hostile".

The Kremlin has summoned the EU ambassador to Moscow, Markus Ederer, who has stated that Lithuania's measures are only due to EU sanctions against Russia: "Lithuania is not taking unilateral measures, it is implementing EU sanctions", he told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the same agency that has stated that this blockade is a "casus belli".

PHOTO/AP - Maria Zakharova, portavoz del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores ruso
PHOTO/AP - Maria Zakharova, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman

For her part, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, Ingrida Simonyte, has assured that Vilnius is not seeking to escalate tension with Russia because "there is no blockade with Moscow" and that "sanctions have simply come into force for some goods included in the so-called sanctions package".

Adding to the tension in the Baltic over Kaliningrad is Estonia's complaint about Russia's violation of its airspace. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has claimed that a Russian helicopter flew over the country's airspace without permission at a point in the southeast on 18 June. "Estonia considers this an extremely serious and regrettable incident which undoubtedly causes additional tensions, and which is completely unacceptable," an official statement said.

In the proclamation, Estonia also expressed solidarity with Lithuania over Moscow's latest threats: "Russia must stop threatening its neighbours and realise that the price of Russia's aggression against Ukraine is really high". At the same time, it called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine

Russian authorities have also targeted Germany amid these tensions, accusing it of creating plans for autonomy within Russian territory, according to Patrushev. "The attempt by German-controlled organisations to create a German autonomy in the Kaliningrad province has been neutralised," said the Russian Security Council secretary.  Patrushev also claimed that Poland was gathering information from Kaliningrad in an attempt to instigate discontent among the city's population

AFP/ MICHELE TANTUSSI  -   El canciller alemán Olaf Scholz (izq.) conversa con la ministra alemana de Asuntos Exteriores, Annalena Baerbock, al inicio de una reunión del gabinete de seguridad en la Cancillería de Berlín
AFP/ MICHELE TANTUSSI - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (left) talks with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the start of a security cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin.

In the face of what are considered "threats", Patrushev called for "additional measures to strengthen the forces and equipment that guarantee the security of our borders in the face of the emergence of new threats due to the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO".