Berlin is reportedly demanding that Lithuania allow the transit of sanctioned goods through its territory to the Russian exclave
The German government is irritated by Lithuania's transit blockade of sanctioned goods from mainland Russia to its exclave, Kaliningrad, Der Spiegel magazine has reported. Since mid-June, the Baltic nation has been refusing to let items on the EU sanctions list pass through its territory. Moscow, in turn, has threatened retaliation.
The media outlet ran an article on Thursday, claiming that the EU, not least because of Berlin's requests, would soon issue a clarification allowing the passage of any goods between mainland Russia and its westernmost region. Officials in Berlin reportedly view the transit currently being blocked by Vilnius as "transport from Russia to Russia," which should be allowed. Lithuania's uncompromising stance has allegedly angered the German leadership.
The magazine went on to suggest that Olaf Scholz's government is wary that Moscow could use force to secure a land corridor through Lithuania unless the blockade is lifted.
With the Baltic state being a NATO member, that scenario would mean a direct conflict between the military alliance and Russia.
As pointed out by Der Spiegel, the German chancellor has repeatedly said his goal is to prevent NATO from becoming a party to the war in Ukraine.
Berlin is particularly concerned about the situation since German troops are stationed in Lithuania as part of the alliance's rapid force, the report adds. Der Spiegel cited unnamed Lithuanian government officials as confirming the intervention from Berlin.
"The Germans are exerting pressure on the [European] Commission to ensure that the sanctions don't apply to Kaliningrad," a source told the outlet on Thursday. The anonymous Lithuanian official went on to suggest that Berlin "fears that its soldiers could end up in a military conflict and let themselves be intimidated by Russia."
The report claims that a decision is expected to be thrashed out by July 10, when the next round of sanctions takes effect.
Lithuanian officials have so far insisted that they're merely sticking to the letter and spirit of existing EU legislation, with Brussels until recently agreeing that goods in transit to Kaliningrad also fell under the purview of EU sanctions.
The Baltic state is concerned that lifting the sanctions could adversely affect the security of the bloc, Der Spiegel reports.
"Sanctions must be enforced. No excuse should undermine the credibility and effectiveness of EU sanctions policy," a spokesperson for the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said recently.
Lithuania began blocking the transit of certain goods, including steel, coal and construction materials, from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad on June 17, citing EU sanctions. Vilnius is not letting these items pass through its territory, by rail or road.
According to the Russian region's governor, Anton Alikhanov, between 40% and 50% of all transit is being affected.
Russia has described Lithuania's actions as a "blockade" of its region, and threatened retaliation.
The European Commission has been busy trying to work out a scheme, which would defuse tensions in the region. With Germany reportedly calling for an exemption, Brussels is likely to issue "guidance" or a clarification to its fourth batch of anti-Russia sanctions, which would officially state that the transit of goods to Kaliningrad is not affected by those restrictions, Der Spiegel reports.
To date, however, the Lithuanian government has reportedly refused to accept the alleged plan.