Kaliningrad minister: rail freight via Lithuania can be diverted to ships

·2-min read

* This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.

MOSCOW, June 23 (Reuters) - An official in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad said on Thursday that goods banned from transit across Lithuania because of European Union sanctions can be "quickly rerouted onto ships", the state-owned TASS news agency reported.

TASS quoted Kaliningrad region Minister of Infrastructure Development Yevgeniya Kukushkina as saying that around 30% of Kaliningrad's freight imports were affected.

"This volume can be quickly redirected onto ships," she said. Kaliningrad has a port on the region's Baltic Sea coast.

EU member Lithuania banned the transit of steel and other ferrous metals to neighbouring Kaliningrad across its territory from Russia on June 18, after EU sanctions against Moscow came into effect.

Moscow called the move a "blockade" of its exclave, which has traditionally depended on transport links to and from Russia that cross Lithuania, and threatened retaliation.

Kaliningrad governor Anton Alikhanov said at the time that the ban would cover around 50% of the items that Kaliningrad imports.

On Tuesday, the head of Russia's Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, warned on a visit to Kaliningrad that Russia would take "appropriate measures" that would have "serious negative influence on the population of Lithuania".

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte tweeted https://twitter.com/IngridaSimonyte/status/1539616613817028608 a statement on Wednesday that Russian claims of a blockade were false.

She said passenger transit continued uninterrupted, and that the goods affected amounted to only 1% of total Russian freight transit to Kaliningrad.

The 27-member EU and other Western powers have imposed a barrage of financial, economic and personal sanctions on Russia and its officials in response to its decision to send tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Heavy fighting since then has killed thousands of troops and civilians, devastated towns and cities, and driven almost a third of Ukraine's population from their homes.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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