NATO member Lithuania became the flashpoint of tensions between Russia and the military alliance on Saturday when it banned the transit of EU-sanctioned goods through its territory to and from the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. The Kremlin described the move as “openly hostile” and warned it will take action if the ban is not lifted “in the near future”.
Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Lithuania’s top envoy in Moscow to protest about the ban.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “The situation is more than serious.
“This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything.”
He added: “We consider this illegal. The situation is more than serious…we need a serious in-depth analysis in order to work out our response.”
Russia’s foreign ministry has demanded Vilnius reverse the move immediately.
The Ministry said in a statement: “We consider provocative measures of the Lithuanian side which violate Lithuania’s international legal obligations, primarily the 2002 Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the European Union on transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation, to be openly hostile.”
It added: “If cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests.”
Loyal Putin senator Andrey Klimov said the move was a “direct aggression against Russia, literally forcing us to immediately resort to proper self-defence”.
The head of the parliamentary sovereignty protection commission vowed Russian would solve the blockade “in any way we choose”.
Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy speaker of the senate, claimed Lithuania was flouting international law in banning goods reaching Lithuania from Russia via Belarus, The Mirror reported.
Fellow senator Andrey Klishas said: “Lithuania’s attempt to establish a virtual blockade of the Kaliningrad region is a violation of Russia’s sovereignty over this region and may be the basis for very tough and absolutely legal actions on the part of Russia.”
Former Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak – a TV presenter – warned: “After Lithuania banned the transit of sanctioned goods to the Kaliningrad region through its territory, Russian politicians and the media have started talking…the basis for declaring war.”
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Any attack on NATO member state Lithuania would be seen as an act of war against the military alliance.
It would therefore likely trigger a retaliation under Article 5 of the NATO treaty which states that an armed attack against one member state is considered an attack against them all.
Lithuania has said the ban was merely implementing EU sanctions brought in as part of a swathe of measures intended to put pressure on President Vladimir Putin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Speaking to reporters in Luxembourg, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said: “It’s not Lithuania doing anything: it’s European sanctions that started working from 17th of June.
“It was done with consultation from European Commission and under European Commission guidelines.”
Lithuania’s fellow ex-Soviet state Kazakhstan also sparked rage in the Kremlin after Putin was “humiliated” by Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev when the pair appeared at Russia’s major economic summit in St Petersburg on Friday.
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Tokayev snubbed Putin by refusing to recognise the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics as independent states.
Following the incident, Pro-Putin MP Konstantin Zatulin warned Kazakhstan could face “Ukraine-like measures”.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov warned Kazakhstan: “You’ve got to stand with Russia and show your position, and not be scared of US and EU sanctions.”
It comes as Russia was dealt a hammer blow on Monday when Germany suggested Finland and Sweden would likely be successful in their bid to join NATO.
A German government source told Reuters the country is “very confident” NATO will successfully reach an agreement with Sweden and Finland over their bid for membership.
However, the move may not be completed in time for the NATO Summit in Madrid, which begins on June 29.