Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Few Kinks on Kaliningrad Transit Run

EU, Lithuanian and Italian officials joined the Kremlin's envoy to Kaliningrad on one of the first trains traveling under new transit rules across Lithuania, and after arriving back in Moscow on Wednesday they conceded that a few kinks remain in the system.

"We understand that the Kaliningrad transit system is new, and we expected that some cracks might appear," Kremlin envoy Dmitry Rogozin told reporters. "And problems arose."

Chaos broke out and tempers flared on the first transit trains to depart the Kaliningrad exclave under the stricter visa regime introduced by EU candidate Lithuania on Tuesday. More than 60 people, including 22 children, were taken off trains at the Lithuanian border.

Rogozin said the passengers bought their tickets in Belarus and Ukraine, and the Lithuanian authorities were not notified before they reached the border. Those who purchased tickets at Russian ticket offices had no problem, as the offices are linked with Lithuania under a new travel system.

Rogozin's Kaliningrad-bound train passed a group of 47 stranded passengers from Chelyabinsk on Tuesday, and he managed to persuade border officials to put them on the next train to the exclave, he said.

On Wednesday, he ordered the Foreign and Railways ministries to send representatives to the border to assist passengers who run into trouble.

"I am not going to travel on each transit train myself," he said.

Railways Minister Gennady Fadeyev said later Wednesday that ministry officials would be on the border starting Thursday. The ministry also opened a hotline Wednesday to assist travelers. The number is 8 (8462) 39-49-84.

Representatives from the Russian Consulate in Brest, Belarus, have been dispatched to the border together with a Federal Border Service official, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said.

Eleven people were removed from trains Wednesday, Interfax reported.

The Lithuanian visa requirements came into force as part of that country's preparations to bring its visa regime in line with the EU's ahead of its entry into the European Union next year.

Under a deal struck between the EU and Russia in November, Russian citizens are being allowed to make the trip on a multi-entry visa or a "facilitated transit document" -- a single-transit permit. A passenger must buy the ticket at least two days before the trip -- so that Lithuanian Embassy officials have time to process the paperwork -- and the permit is handed out on the train.

Lithuanian Ambassador Rimantas Sidlauskas said the embassy in Moscow had rejected only three of the 23,000 requests for single-transit permits received so far.

He said the embassy has gotten only two applications for the multi-entry visas, which cost 5 euros and last three years.

Sidlauskas made the train trip together with Rogozin and the head of the European Commission's delegation in Russia, Richard Wright, and Italian Ambassador Gianfranco Facco Bonetti, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The four officials agreed Wednesday that the transit system is highly effective.

"I think that there will be no problems within the next few weeks. The system will be fine-tuned," Rogozin said.

EU officials had expressed concern that Russians might jump off moving trains in an attempt to immigrate into the EU, but Wright said the trip had assured him that this would not happen.

"I think the controls on the train will prevent incidents of this kind," he said. "Illegal immigrants will be taken back if they are found on a train."