Germany’s Scholz urges free transit for Russian goods to Kaliningrad

EuroActiv Politico News

MADRID — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday sought to cool tensions in the Baltic region by urging Lithuania and the EU to lift restrictions on freight transport from Russia to its Kaliningrad enclave, arguing that EU sanctions against Moscow should not apply there.

Tensions have been running high in recent weeks over Russian rail transport to Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

The crisis started when the EU implemented new sanctions against Moscow in mid-June, under which the bloc banned imports of Russian steel and ferrous materials. The train line supplying goods from Russia to Kaliningrad passes through Lithuania, so customs agents started stopping freight trains for checks. This, in turn, led to Moscow threatening “practical” retaliatory action if the EU didn’t unblock metal goods stuck in transit.

Speaking at a press conference at the NATO summit in Madrid, Scholz said that it was “a matter for the European Union to set the necessary framework and rules” for freight transport from Russia to its enclave.

“And, of course, these [rules] must always be set in the light of the fact that we are dealing here with traffic between two parts of Russia,” he added, suggesting that EU sanctions against Russian goods should not apply because these goods were not entering the bloc as imports but just passing in transit.

EU officials are currently in talks with Lithuania to exempt freight traffic between Russia and its Kaliningrad enclave from the sanctions.

“I believe that all parties involved are currently making great efforts to establish a de-escalation dynamic here,” Scholz said.