The transport ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania met on January 23 for the first time in four years to discuss a ban on the transit of Russian and Belarusian goods. Estonia, through its rail freight operator Operail, has already enforced the national ban from 1 January 2023. However, Latvia and Lithuania, which have not yet applied any bans, are in a more difficult situation and are asking for a collective approach. Railway Supply magazine writes about this with reference to RailFreight.

Baltic

Unlike Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia share a common border with Belarus, making it difficult to apply effective sanctions. In addition, the case of Lithuania is even more complicated due to the presence of the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. The sanctions applied by the EU effectively allow the flow of goods between Kaliningrad and the Russian mainland.

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Riina Sikkut, Estonia’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications, who also deals with transport issues, seems to be sympathetic to the problems of her neighbors. They see that Russia needs economic isolation and there is a desire not to contribute to the Russian war effort,” Sikkut said.

Latvian colleague Janis Vitenbergs stressed that “if we keep all the EU sanctions against Russia, then cooperation will naturally decrease.” Both he and Marius Skuodis, the Lithuanian transport minister, noted that business ties with Russia are evaporating even in the absence of national bans.

“Transport between Lithuania and Russia, as well as between Lithuania and Belarus has decreased significantly, and I see a further reduction trend,” Skuodis added. He also stated that in 2022, the volumes have already been significantly reduced: an unprecedented decrease of 40% for railways and 20% for the port of Klaipeda. A similar trend was noted by Vitenbergs, who stated that 20 million tons were transported by the Latvian national railway company LDz and that these volumes are expected to drop to around 15-16 million tons in 2023.

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