Lithuanian Transport and Communications Minister Marius Skuodis says there are only two realistic ways to get grains out of war-torn Ukraine: to unblock Ukrainian ports with the help of international institutions or to create a humanitarian corridor for shipments via Belarus.
© AFP / Scanpix

"If the world community can talk about the lack of food in the world because it's impossible to export Ukrainian grains, then we need to dare to unblock the ports (of Ukraine - BNS) to allow ships to leave. The second option is to use the existing infrastructure and transport grains via Belarus, which would allow us to use the full capacity of the port of Klaipeda, as well as the capacity of Latvian and Estonian ports. This would require a certain humanitarian corridor via Belarus," Skuodis told reporters on Tuesday.

Conversations on such a corridor are underway, the minister said, but it should be the responsibility of international institutions, including the United Nations or the European Commission.

"Talks (on the corridor - BNS) are going on, but it is, first of all, the duty of international institutions to reach certain agreements because if a Ukrainian shipment came from Belarus, we would definitely accept it," the transport minister said.

In his words, the main problem of transporting Ukrainian grains to Lithuania bypassing Belarus is the undeveloped railway infrastructure in the western direction as currently only 2 to 3 trains a day can go to Lithuania via Poland.

"The port of Klaipeda is capable of handling fairly large amounts, some 8 million tons, excluding the Biriu Kroviniu Terminalas (Bulk Cargo Terminal), and with investment into capacity, this could be increased. Unfortunately, due to infrastructural constraints in Poland, we can now bring 1-1.5 million tons of Ukrainian grains to Lithuania per year," the minister said.

Logistics between Ukraine and Lithuania are also undermined by different railway gauges as the Russian gauge is still used in Ukraine and Lithuania, while the European gauge is used in Poland, meaning that rolling stock needs be changed when transporting goods.

Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LTG), the country's state-owned railway company, sent a pilot train to Ukraine in early May and it's scheduled to bring various goods in containers from Ukraine via Poland to Kaunas. If the route proves successful, it will later be used to transport grains.

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