Putin and Lukashenko Planning 'Joint Response' to Lithuania Blockade

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, are coordinating a possible joint response against Lithuania, according to a report from Russian state-owned media outlet TASS on Monday.

The Kremlin said in a statement that the two leaders held talks on how the two countries could respond to Lithuania after it imposed European Union sanctions on materials heading to Russia's Kaliningrad territory on the Baltic Sea coast.

"Emphasis was placed on the situation relating to the illegal restrictions imposed by Lithuania on the transit of goods to the Kaliningrad Region. In this context, some possible joint steps were discussed," the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin said Putin and Lukashenko discussed a possible joint response to the blockade of transit to Kaliningrad by Lithuania, and also discussed "pressing issues of bilateral trade and economic cooperation" as well as the strengthening of Russian-Belarusian relations. Putin and Lukashenko agreed that they should maintain close contact, TASS reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko
According to Russian state media reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (L) have discussed a possible joint response to a Lithuanian blockade of materials heading to Russia's Kaliningrad region on the Baltic Sea. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Lithuania borders Kaliningrad and it also shares a 422-mile border with Belarus. Kaliningrad, home to an estimated one million people, has been Russian territory since the end of World War II in 1945.

Lithuania angered Moscow after it expanded restrictions on trade through Kaliningrad despite prior warnings. The EU sanctions, which took effect on June 17, were imposed over Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24.

A spokesman for Lithuanian customs told Reuters on Monday that concrete, wood, alcohol and alcohol-based industrial chemicals were among additional goods barred Monday morning by Lithuania.

Reuters reported that the widened restrictions were the result of phase-ins on earlier announced EU sanctions against Russia taking effect.

On Friday, Russia warned Lithuania and the EU that it could impose "harsh measures" if they did not resume the transit of certain goods through the territory "within the coming days."

Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alikhanov said up to 50 percent of Kaliningrad's imports have been affected.

On July 4, the Kremlin said it was "mulling various schemes" in case the "blockade of transit" to Kaliningrad continues, TASS reported.

"We are waiting for this situation to be resolved. We hope for the better, but, of course, we are also mulling various schemes in case of the worst-case scenario, in case of the worst-case developments. So for now we do not want to elaborate, we still hope that some common sense will prevail," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Lithuania's Foreign Ministry, in a statement to Newsweek last month, rejected Russian reports that Kaliningrad had been blockaded.

"The land transit between the Kaliningrad region and other parts of the Russian Federation has not been stopped or banned," the ministry said. "The transit of passengers and EU non-sanctioned goods continues without restrictions. The Republic of Lithuania is not applying any national unilateral restrictive measures in this regard."

Newsweek has reached out to Lithuania's foreign ministry and Russian authorities for additional comment.