There have been growing concerns in Lithuania over the increased use of a transit loophole on the rail route from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad. The surge in the number of Russians exploiting this route has sparked worries about security and potential implications for the European Union.
A new report from the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) has revealed that in 2023, nearly 14,000 individuals utilized this route to enter the EU, marking a significant increase from the previous year. This increase has exposed a loophole in the EU’s sanctions imposed on Russian citizens, prompting questions about their effectiveness.
Passengers traveling across Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad are able to disembark in the village of Kena and travel from there to the rest of the EU. While many have papers that would allow travel to Lithuania by other routes, there are concerns about the potential for Russian agents or military personnel using the railroad as a backdoor to the West.
The Kaliningrad transit route gained international attention in June 2022 when Lithuania initially banned the rail transport of sanctioned goods to and from this city. After a strong reaction from the Kremlin, the EU revised its guidance to permit only the road transport of sanctioned cargoes, leading to a resumption of rail transport through Lithuania. The ban on military personnel and goods, however, remained.
Despite efforts to limit train passengers and enhance security, Lithuania remains divided on the extent of the threat and the appropriate measures to close the loophole. Disagreements between different government agencies further complicate efforts to address the issue.
Last year, Lithuania’s State Border Guard Service (VSAT) pointed out that stopping the flow of people through this route is problematic, as the same route is used by nationals of other countries as well.
In addition, an increasing number of people have been crossing Poland’s border with Kaliningrad, with around 17,014 people crossing the borders between December 23 and 27. These developments have raised concerns about the potential impact on security and the integrity of the EU’s border. Keep updated on Jetsanza.com for more travel news and updates from Europe and around the world.
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