Lithuania threatens to blockade Russian enclave of Kaliningrad

By bne IntelliNews October 3, 2013

bne -

In a sign of how high tensions are running ahead of the planned signing of EU agreements with several former Soviet states later this month, Lithuania's foreign minister threatened that his country could, if it wanted, retaliate against Moscow's ongoing strong-arm tactics by blockading the enclave of Kaliningrad.

The rash statement from Linas Linkevicius came late on October 1 at a press conference as he discussed Russian pressure designed to prevent the likes of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia signing or initialling association and trade pacts with Brussels at the November summit. Trade barriers and threatened gas cut-offs have been implemented as Moscow pushes them to join its Customs Union instead.

As holder of the rotating EU presidency, Lithuania will host the EU meetings and has been highly vocal in supporting the signing of the agreements, and Vilnius has found itself the target of pressure from Moscow. Lithuania is also attempting to leverage several points - including its control of gas pipelines serving Kaliningrad - to push Gazprom for improved conditions on a new gas contract.

Asked whether Lithuania might retaliate for the huge lines of trucks held at Russian customs by increased checks through the last month or so, Linkevicius was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We could also apply the same measures... As you know, the Kaliningrad region is isolated, geographically isolated, so we could apply some measures also to cut something. We could cut off trains, but not only trains, also the supply of goods, whatever."

Perhaps sensing quite how far he had overstepped the mark - his boss Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has insisted on "pragmatic" relations with Russia - Linkevicius sought to add that he was only talking of Lithuania's physical potential to strike back, rather than any plan under consideration. "It is theoretically possible," he noted. "It was not discussed, it's not our way of thinking, it's not our methods."

If there was any thinking behind his comments, it seems most likely that Linkevicius was seeking to flag up the gas issue. Vilnius is in the midst of forcing Gazprom to sell it control of Lithuania's pipelines, which is another major point of negotiation in the gas contract talks. Harshly criticized by some for his softened stance towards Moscow, Butkevicius boasted in early September that he was about to seal a significant discount in the talks, but was driven to talk of an "economic war" when he received the Russian gas giant's offer.

The PM said on October 2 that he expects to receive a new offer imminently, and reach an agreement by mid-October. Opposition MPs claimed to BNS the same day that Vilnius has already got Gazprom's reply to its latest demands.

Meanwhile, reports on October 1 suggested that Russia's month-long regime of increased customs checks on Lithuanian trucks, which has caused huge losses to the country's vital transport industry, had been relaxed. However, the next day, haulers reported that the checks look to have been reinstated.

"It's difficult to say anything about the situation," Mecislavas Atroskevicius, vice-president of national road carriers' association Linava told BNS. "There are unfavourable signs at the border. They did not check the whole day [on Tuesday, October 1] and then, as we were notified, they resumed checks at night." It is not clear if the foreign minister's outburst was an element in that confusion.

Related Articles

Drum rolls in the great disappearing act of Russia's banks

Jason Corcoran in Moscow - Russian banks are disappearing at the fastest rate ever as the country's deepening recession makes it easier for the central bank to expose money laundering, dodgy lending ... more

Kremlin: No evidence in Olympic doping allegations against Russia

bne IntelliNews - The Kremlin supported by national sports authorities has brushed aside "groundless" allegations of a mass doping scam involving Russian athletes after the World Anti-Doping Agency ... more

PROFILE: Day of reckoning comes for eccentric owner of Russian bank Uralsib

Jason Corcoran in Moscow - Revelations and mysticism may have been the stock-in-trade of Nikolai Tsvetkov’s management style, but ultimately they didn’t help him to hold on to his ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.