Lithuania will be prepared if Russia disconnects it from the regional power grid in retaliation for blocking rail shipments of some Russian goods to Moscow’s Kaliningrad exclave but no military confrontation is expected, its president told Reuters on Wednesday (June 22).
He spoke after the Kremlin warned Lithuania on Tuesday (June 21) Moscow would respond to the ban on the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU to Kaliningrad in such a way that citizens of the Baltic state would feel the pain.
With relations between Moscow and the West at a half-century low over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania banned the transit of goods sanctioned by the European Union across its territory to and from Kaliningrad, citing EU sanction rules.
Kaliningrad is sandwiched between NATO members Poland and Lithuania and supplied by rail via the territory of Lithuania.
Lithuania shut the route for transport of steel and other ferrous metals from mainland Russia on Saturday (June 18) saying it had to do so under EU sanctions that took effect that day.
“We are ready and we are prepared for unfriendly actions from Russia (in response), such as disconnection from the BRELL (power grid) system, or others,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.
Thirty years after seceding from the then-Soviet Union and 17 years since joining the EU, Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia still depend on Russia for stable power supplies.
However, Lithuania installed equipment on its power link to Poland last year to connect with the continental European grid quickly as an insurance policy in case Russia cuts off the flow of electricity, potentially causing blackouts.
Nauseda said Lithuania’s status as a member of NATO meant Russia would not “challenge us in military sense”.
He also said Lithuania will be expanding the list of goods it bars from reaching Kaliningrad, as phase-in periods for the EU sanctions are reached.
If the European Commission explained the content of sanctions to Russia “it could remove some of the current tensions” he added.