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Why the Next Flashpoint in Russia’s Conflict With Ukraine Could Be Kaliningrad, Its Foothold in Europe

Kaliningrad, a remote but strategically crucial enclave on the Baltic coast, is the centre of rising unrest and may soon be dragged into the Kremlin’s conflict.

After Lithuania forbade the entry of items subject to sanctions into Kaliningrad, Russia reacted angrily. However, Lithuania claims it is only upholding sanctions imposed by the European Union, and the European Union has backed it.

As a result of the dispute, tensions between Moscow and the EU, which has launched several packages of penalties on Russian exports, risk getting worse.

What you need to know about Kaliningrad, its history, and its significance to Russia is provided below.

What caused this argument?

Experts have worried that Kaliningrad may become a hotspot in tensions between Moscow and Europe ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

The only region of Russia that is bordered by EU countries is its westernmost province; Lithuania is between it and Belarus, a Russian ally, and Poland lies on its southern border.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, stated on Monday that the action was unprecedented and that Russia viewed it as illegal. Of course, it’s a part of a roadblock, he replied. Retaliation has been threatened by further Russian leaders.

Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev warned, “To such aggressive measures, Russia would undoubtedly reply. Interdepartmental planning is underway for measures that will be implemented soon. Their effects will be extremely detrimental to the people of Lithuania, “according to state-owned news organisation RIA Novosti in Russia.

Construction machinery, machine tools, and other industrial equipment are among the sanctioned goods that the European Union forbids from entering Russian territory, according to the Ministry for Economic Development, as quoted by the Russian state news agency TASS. There are also a few luxuries offered.

According to a statement from Lithuania’s foreign ministry on Monday, no “unilateral, individual, or extra” limitations have been put in place.

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Charge d’Affaires of Lithuania in Moscow and informed him that if freight access to the Kaliningrad region was not fully restored, Russia reserved the right to take legal measures to safeguard its national interests.

But the EU has supported its member state, whose sanctions Lithuania is executing by obstructing transportation.

As part of a protest by Lithuanians against the invasion, images depicting Russia’s conflict in Ukraine were placed along the railroad tracks where trains from Moscow to Kaliningrad pass by.

As part of a protest by Lithuanians against the invasion, pictures depicting Russia’s conflict in Ukraine were put along the railroad tracks where trains from Moscow to Kaliningrad pass by.

Dmitry Lyskov, a representative of the regional government, was compelled to advise citizens not to panic purchase in response to the altercation in a statement to Reuters.


The products that have been sanctioned must now travel by sea. Rolandas Kacinskas, a representative of Lithuania, stated on Tuesday that “Passengers and illegally imported items from the EU are still being transported across Lithuanian territory to the Kaliningrad region.

Lithuania is fully abiding by EU law and has not placed any unilateral, particular, or additional restrictions on the passage.”

Kaliningrad: What is it?

Between Poland and Lithuania sits the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. It was taken from Nazi Germany by Soviet forces in April 1945, and as a result of the Potsdam Agreement, it is now a part of Soviet territory. In 1946, it underwent a renaming from Königsberg in German.

It was a strong military area that was off-limits to outsiders for many years. However, Kaliningrad has recently gained popularity as a travel destination and hosted games during Russia’s 2018 World Cup.

About a million people are living there, most of whom reside in or close to the country’s capital. The exclave has a large industrial base and is among Russia’s more prosperous regions. Its port, Baltiysk, is the farthest western harbour on Russian soil and, more importantly, is ice-free all year round.

Along with drab, concrete Soviet residential buildings, the streets of the major city are lined with majestic examples of old German architecture.

Kaliningrad during the 2018 World Cup preparations, which gave the area its largest international cultural stage to date.

However, Kaliningrad’s importance is mostly derived from its geographic location. Kaliningrad is bordered by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus by a narrow sliver of land to the south.

The only overland connection between the Baltic republics and the rest of the European Union is the Suwalki corridor or gap.

The Russian Baltic Fleet’s command is based at Kaliningrad. The navy has started conducting previously scheduled rocket and artillery drills, according to RIA Novosti, which also stated that “around 1,000 military people and more than 100 pieces of military and special equipment of artillery and missile units are involved in the operations.”

Before Poland and Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, the EU and Moscow established an agreement regulating travel between Russia and Kaliningrad. The exclave was bordered by EU territory on three sides after those nations joined. According to Russia, the 2002 deal is currently being broken.

With the anticipated NATO membership of Sweden and Finland, Kaliningrad’s significance to Russia has increased even further. The admission plans would make it “impossible to talk about any non-nuclear status of the Baltics — the balance must be restored,” according to Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Russian National Security Council.

Russia has traditionally objected to NATO nations being near Kaliningrad. In 2015, following rumours that Russia had deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told CNN, “They relocated NATO infrastructure next to our borders.” Additionally, this is not U.S. territory.

The Federation of American Scientists found in 2018 that Russia has extensively updated a nuclear weapons storage bunker in the area based on analysis of satellite imagery, even though Russia has not acknowledged having nuclear weapons deployed in Kaliningrad.

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Lithuania has pushed NATO to boost the number of troops stationed on its soil since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

President Gitanas Nauseda advocated for the Suwalki corridor to be strengthened in April and suggested that NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence Battalion be expanded to “at least” the size of a brigade.

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