In a sternly worded statement, Moscow accused Lithuania of launching an "unprecedented" and "illegal" act, with the Foreign Ministry saying that the restriction was "openly hostile" and suggested Moscow would "take actions to protect its national interests."
What those actions would be, specifically, the Russians did not specify, but the rhetoric nevertheless renewed fears of a wider conflict that could ignite World War III since Lithuania is a member of NATO and part of being in the alliance means all nations come to the aid of a member state under attack.
According to Radio Free Europe, "Lithuanian officials imposed the restrictions beginning on June 20 in an effort to shore up punitive measures that followed Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine on February 24."
"The decision is indeed unprecedented. It violates every possible rule," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.
"We understand that it stems from the European Union's decision to expand sanctions to the transit of goods. We believe that it is illegal, too," Peskov added.
That said, Lithuanian officials countered by insisting Russia could ship goods to its enclave by sea, as it is Russia's only ice-free port year-round.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said this week that officials summoned the Lithuanian ambassador in Moscow to protest what it called "provocative" and "openly hostile" measures.
"If in the near future cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation through Lithuania is not restored in full, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests," the ministry noted.
On the EU's list of banned Russian goods are construction materials, coal, metals, and advanced technology.
The enclave is situated between Poland on the west and Lithuania on the east; it is home to around a half-million Russian citizens and also the Russian Navy’s Baltic Sea fleet, so needless to say, it’s a vital piece of Russian soil that President Vladimir Putin is not simply going to abandon. What’s more, even as Russian Army morale is flagging as the war in Ukraine drags on, Lithuania’s move is likely to spur nationalist fervor throughout Russia and reinvigorate the Russian will to fight.
Lithuania’s government reiterated that it is simply following the EU’s sanctions against Moscow, but it is a decision that is likely going to trigger some form of response from Putin at some point.
Reuters further described the scope of the sanctions and Russia’s responses thus far:
The EU sanctions list notably includes coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology, and Alikhanov said the ban would cover around 50% of the items that Kaliningrad imports.
Its immediate start was confirmed by the cargo arm of Lithuania’s state railway service in a letter to clients following “clarification” from the European Commission on the mechanism for applying the sanctions.
Urging citizens not to resort to panic buying, Alikhanov said two vessels were already ferrying goods between Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg, and seven more would be in service by the end of the year.
Larry Johnson, who blogs at A Son Of The New American Revolution, writes that the decision by Lithuania is mindless and fraught with risk.
“Lithuania claims it is simply abiding by the sanctions imposed by the European Union. After all, Lithuania is a member of the European Union and NATO. But that is the point. This is a deliberate provocation. It is laying economic siege to a vital interest of Russia. While there is no immediate danger to the Russian population of Kaliningrad, this is a flashpoint that could lead to actual war as opposed to a special military operation,” he noted.
“What is the difference between a special military operation and war? In the SMO you leave communications, electrical infrastructure, transportation infrastructure and fuel depots largely intact. In the SMO you try to minimize civilian and military casualties,” Johnson added.
“War on the other hand is terrifying. If Russia opts for a war footing, the restraint that characterized its activities in Ukraine will be replaced by a full-on attack on key military installations and assets in the region as well as the destruction of the communications, electrical, transportation and fuel resources of the adversary,” he said.