VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania made a formal protest to Russia on Friday over supplementary border checks imposed over the last month that are hampering trade as the countries spar over trade relations with Ukraine.
Russia and the European Union - of which Lithuania holds the rotating presidency - are each trying to convince Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to join their respective trade blocs.
Russia has imposed trade bans and threatened gas supply cuts to try to keep its neighbours within its sphere of influence.
“The Russian ambassador to Lithuania was summoned to demand and end to the discriminatory measures against Lithuania’s people and businesses,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
Russia this week introduced lengthy extra checks on goods originating from Lithuania, a former Soviet republic that has a large trucking and warehousing industry due to its strategic location between Russia and the European Union.
Moscow had reacted furiously last week after Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said Russia’s pressure on Ukraine was unacceptable.
It had already started subjecting Lithuanian-registered cars to lengthy border checks in August, with the result that the number crossing the frontier has fallen by 90 percent.
Aleksandras Kondrusevicius, president of the Lithuanian hauliers’ association, said no truck loaded in Lithuania had cleared customs in Russia since Thursday morning.
“We were told that the current customs procedures can take up to a week,” he said. “They used to take just half a day.”
Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Kevin Liffey