In what appears to be another act of exerting regional dominance, Russia has instructed some western shipping suppliers not to ship their goods through Lithuania, according to Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius.
Butkevicius announced the news of the partial blockade on March 14th. “It is impossible neither to re-export, nor export, nor import food through all the terminals of the Seaport of Klaipeda. For instance, US transported poultry legs stored at refrigerators of Lithuania-based company Klaipedos Smelte, but the US company received an instruction to export through other ports, which do not belong to Lithuania and some other countries,” Butkevicius said. “Within a year, over 1 billion tons of food is re-exported and exported to Russia through terminals in the Seaport of Klaipeda.”
The loss in revenue has not been disclosed by either the companies involved, or the Klaipeda State Seaport Authority that oversees the running of the port. Speaking while on a visit to the United States, Arturas Drungilas, the Marketing and Administration Director at the Klaipeda State Seaport Authority, brushed off the Prime Minister’s comments: “We have received information that there was no such a problem. I cannot comment on something that might be not happening.”
Russia’s action is thought to have stemmed from Butkevicius’ criticism of the Russian invasion of Crimea, and the very vocal stance that Lithuania has taken in allying itself with NATO. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the country today for a meeting with Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius.
Speaking to Lithuanian radio station LRT about the visit, Butkevicius said: “We see his visit as proof that NATO allies, the United States first and foremost, are still committed to collective defense. They are sending a clear signal to those who are interested in destabilizing the region.” Joe Biden echoed that message today in saying, “As long as Russia continues on this dark path, they will face increasing political and economic isolation.”
Lithuania, which borders Russia, became a full member of both NATO and the European Union in 2004, and enjoys the same common defense.