July 13 (UPI) — The European Union on Wednesday clarified that goods included in sanctions against Russia can be moved through the bloc by rail.
The European Commission issued new legal guidance specifying that while “the transit of sanctioned goods by road with Russian operators is not allowed,” under the sanctions issued in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, “no such similar prohibition exists for rail transport.”
The guidance comes after Lithuania applied the sanctions to restrict the transit of goods such as coal, iron and steel to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, located between the Baltic Sea and EU members Lithuania and Poland.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, warned of “serious consequences” as a result of the restrictions.
“The purpose of today’s text is to specify the applicable rules and recall that Member States are obliged to prevent all possible forms of circumvention of EU restrictive measures,” the bloc’s legislative arm said in a statement. “In that light, the Commission underlines the importance of monitoring the two-way trade flows between Russia and Kaliningrad Oblast to ensure that sanctioned goods cannot enter the EU customs territory.”
The commission on Wednesday noted that EU member states must ensure that transit volumes remain within the historical averages of the past three years, reflecting “the real demand for essential goods at the destination” to prevent “unusual flows or trade patterns” that could lead to circumvention of the sanctions.
Under the guidance, “the transit of sanctioned military and dual use goods and technology is fully prohibited in any event — regardless of the mode of transport,” the commission added.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday said the United States welcomed the EU’s announcement clarifying the sanctions, while asserting that “there never has been a so-called ‘blockade’ of Kaliningrad.”
“Using a variety of routes, passengers continue to transit between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad, as do all humanitarian shipments and most other goods,” Price said. “We should also not forget why the sanctions were put into place, which was in response to Russia’s unprovoked and brutal war in Ukraine.”
The commission also reiterated that the sanctions are “designed to increase economic pressure on Russia and undermine its ability to wage its war on Ukraine.”
“The EU stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will continue to support Ukraine and its people together with its international partners, including through additional political, financial and humanitarian support,” it said.