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    Lithuania must allow rail transit of Russian goods: EU

    BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union (EU) on Wednesday said Lithuania had an obligation to allow the passage of sanctioned goods, with the exception of weapons, between Russia and its enclave of Kaliningrad.

    While transit by road was not allowed, legal guidance released by the EU executive said that “no such prohibition exists for rail transport” from Russia to Kaliningrad and that it could not be subject to an outright ban.

    Russia threatened reprisals against the Baltic nation last month after Lithuania imposed strict restrictions on goods travelling across its territory, mainly by rail.

    Vilnius argued it was simply applying EU sanctions.

    Moscow demanded Lithuania immediately lift the restrictions, adding that it had brought its grievances to European authorities.

    “We did not negotiate anything with Russia,” said EU spokesman Eric Mamer after the guidance was released.

    The commission said Lithuania, like all EU countries, had an obligation “to prevent all possible forms of circumvention of EU restrictive measures”.

    Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda looks on during a press conference. PHOTO: AFP

    This should be done through “targetted, proportionate and effective controls and other appropriate measures”, said the commission, which controls the execution of EU sanctions.

    Checks would be made on any “unusual flows or trade patterns” that would indicate sanctions busting, it said.

    Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow would be following very closely how the measures were now applied.

    The commission’s clarification on the issue of rail transport was “a manifestation of realism and of good sense”, she added.

    A Lithuanian foreign ministry statement welcomed “restrictions on the volume of transit through the EU… based on the historical averages of the last three years”.

    Vilnius would stay loyal to “transatlantic partnership and will adhere to united and coordinated EU sanctions policy”, the statement added.

    Lithuania would ensure sanctions were applied by “carefully monitoring… and effectively checking whether Russia does not try to abuse transit opportunities”, said the ministry.

    “After identifying such cases or taking into account the interests of national security, Lithuania reserves the right to unilaterally prevent such attempts,” it added.

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