VILNIUS - Russia has known about the sanctions imposed on the transit of goods to the Kaliningrad region since March and has been preparing for them, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte says, adding that Moscow's propaganda attacks are part of an information war.
Speaking in the parliament on Thursday and answering opposition MPs' written questions on Lithuania's actions when introducing sanctions for Russia, the prime minister said that as soon as the fourth sanction package for Russia, which includes restrictions of the transit of some goods to Russia, was adopted, Lithuania launched consultations with the European Commission on their implementation and followed its guidelines.
"We have always tried to be rational, correct and keep it to the letter of the law when assessing the delicacy of this issue, which is why when some colleagues in this room suggested dismantling rails or doing other things, the government certainly did not consider or think about such proposals because all decisions must be taken in a legal manner," Simonyte said.
"The sanctions are imposed on Russia, not on the Republic of Lithuania, as it sometimes might seem from the threatening rhetoric, and Russia certainly is and has been aware of the sanctions to be imposed on it since March and has been preparing for them as well," the Lithuanian prime minister said.
This is also evident from the significant drop in the handling of sanctioned goods, recorded before the sanctions came into force, she said.
Also, Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LTG), the country's state-owned railway company, had informed in advance the companies it had contracts with on the transportation of sanctioned goods and the restrictions to be imposed, Simonyte said.
In response to the opposition's questions, the prime minister also stressed that the Seimas, the government and President Gitanas Nauseda has always shared the view that the war in Ukraine made it necessary to impose the toughest possible sanctions on Russia.
"It seems to me that in this discussion we often forget why the sanctions were imposed in the first place. The sanctions were imposed because of Russia's aggression against Ukraine and the rule-based world order, and I would dare to say against democracy in general, and, therefore, also against us," she said.
The existing sanctions are designed to "make it more difficult for the aggressor to fund the war, so that the aggressor has fewer opportunities to expand hostilities", Simonyte said, adding that because of that, sanctions should not and could not be convenient or painless for Russia.
She stressed, however, that the transit of basic goods, including food and medicines, to Kaliningrad is not restricted and there are no obstacle for the transit of passengers.
On Monday, Moscow said the transit restrictions violated international agreements and demanded that Lithuania ended the ban on the rail transit of some goods to Kaliningrad. Vilnius, however, insists it has not unilaterally imposed the restrictions and claims that the ban is part of the existing EU sanctions.
Some members of Lithuania's the opposition in Lithuania have started to question whether, given the Russian reaction to the restriction of transit to Kaliningrad, it was not necessary to ask for exemptions from the EU sanctions.
According to Lithuanian customs, the fourth EU sanctions package adopted on 15 March imposed restrictions on Russian steel and other ferrous metal products under contracts concluded before 17 June, and as of last Saturday they cannot be transported through the territories of Community countries.
According to the customs department, the ban on transit of cement, alcohol and other products will enter into force on 10 July, coal and other solid fossil fuels on 10 August and Russian oil from 5 December.