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international

Lithuanians near Kaliningrad border put faith in Nato protection


Russia's threat to punish Lithuania over blocked rail shipments to Moscow's enclave of Kaliningrad jangled nerves on Tuesday for residents living just across the border who put faith in Nato membership to thwart any potential military action.

Lithuania has shut the route for transport of steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is required to do under EU sanctions that took effect on Saturday, raising the ire of Russian officials who threatened a "serious negative impact."

Insurance worker Vitalijus Sidiskis, 59, said while he believed it was difficult to predict what Russia might do, he would remain calm because of Lithuania's membership in the European Union and Nato.

Other residents in the border town of nearly 6,000 said the threats from Russia had overshadowed other problems, such as sky-high inflation that has hit the pocketbooks of many Lithuanians.

"We work nearby to the border and the shooting and the manoeuvres are a bit worrying," Galina Mateikuniene, a 52-year-old seamstress said. "We are probably more afraid of war, of an invasion. The economy is the economy."

Kaliningrad, formerly the port of Koenigsberg, capital of East Prussia, was captured from Nazi Germany by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union after World War Two. It is wedged between Nato members Poland and Lithuania.

Nearly a million Russians live in the Baltic port city connected to the rest of Russia by a rail link through EU- and Nato-member Lithuania.

Meanwhile, The European Union's envoy to Moscow urged Russia to refrain from "escalatory steps and rhetoric" over what Moscow calls "anti-Russian restrictions" on goods transiting between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia.

"I had the opportunity to make the EU position that there is no such thing as a banning of transit, there is no such thing as a blockade,” said Markus Ederer after leaving the Russian foreign ministry.

The ministry, which earlier on Tuesday summoned the bloc's ambassador to Moscow, called for transit via the region to be restored "immediately" and vowed to retaliate if the situation did not improve.

EU member Lithuania has shut a rail corridor from Russia to its exclave to certain basic goods, including construction materials, metals and coal in response to new EU sanctions that came into force on Saturday.

 

Published : June 22, 2022

By : Reuters