Russian lawmaker: Baltic exclave blockade may fuel conflict
MOSCOW (AP) — Lithuania’s refusal to allow some goods targeted by European Union sanctions through to Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad could trigger a military confrontation, a senior Russian lawmaker warned Wednesday.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, a deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, said that if the Kalingrad region faces blockade “it could lead to an armed conflict.”
“The Russian state must protect its territory and ensure its security,” Dzhabarov said in televised comments. “If we see that a threat to our security that is fraught with a loss of territory, we will certainly take extreme measures and nothing will stop us.”
Dzhabarov’s statement followed the Kremlin warning that it will retaliate against restrictions of transit to the Kaliningrad region that borders EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, raising fears of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.
A Russian attempt to use force against Poland or Lithuania would trigger a direct conflict with NATO, which is obliged to protect any of its members under its charter’s mutual defense clause.
Lithuania has emphasized that the ban on the movement of sanctioned Russian goods was part of the fourth package of EU sanctions against Russia, noting it only applies to steel and ferrous metals starting on June 17. It has rejected Russia’s description of the move as a blockade, stressing that unsanctioned goods and rail passengers can still move through Lithuania.
In line with the EU decision, however, the transit of some other Russian-produced items will be banned in July, shipments of coal will be stopped starting in August and shipments of oil and oil products will be halted in December.
Russia has charged that the restrictions on transit have violated earlier agreements with the EU envisaging a free flow of goods to the region.
Earlier this month, Nikolai Patrushev, the powerful secretary of Russia’s Security Council and a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin, warned that Moscow will respond with unspecified measures that “will have a significant negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”