Russia has reacted angrily to Lithuania’s ban on sending permitted goods into its territory and via Kaliningrad. But Lithuania says it supports EU sanctions, and the European bloc backs it.
The line now threatens to widen the rift between Moscow and the EU, which has released several sets of sanctions on Russian goods.
Here you need to know about Kaliningrad, its history and its importance to Russia.
Experts fear that since the Russian occupation of Ukraine in late February, Kaliningrad will become a flash point in tensions between Moscow and Europe.
It is the western part of Russia and the only part of the country surrounded by EU countries; Lithuania stands between it and the Russian ally Belarus, while Poland borders on the south.
On Monday, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move was unprecedented and that Russia considered it illegal. “It’s part of a siege, of course,” he said. Other Russian officials have threatened to retaliate.
Nikolai Badrushev, secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, said: “Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions.
Products, machinery and other industrial equipment are among the products banned from being exported to Russia by the European Union, according to the Russian state news agency TASS, citing the Ministry of Economic Development. Some luxury items are also included.
Lithuania does not impose “unilateral, personal or additional” restrictions, its foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Lithuania’s official in Moscow summoned Russia’s foreign ministry on Monday and said Russia had the right to take action to protect its national interests if freight traffic to the Kaliningrad region was not fully restored.
But the European Union, which implements Lithuania’s sanctions by blocking transit, has backed its member state.
Speaking to Reuters, Dmitry Liskov, a representative of the regional government, was forced to urge residents not to panic at the sight of the spit.
What is Kaliningrad?
Kaliningrad is a Russian exclamation point between Poland and Lithuania. It was captured by Soviet troops from Nazi Germany in April 1945 and later became part of Soviet territory as a result of the Potsdam Treaty. It was renamed in 1946 from K கோnigsberg, Germany.
It has a population of about one million, most of whom live within or near the capital of the same name. Exclave is one of the most prosperous regions of Russia, with extensive industry. Its port, Baltisk, is the westernmost port in Russian territory and, remarkably, snow-free throughout the year.
The streets of the main city are lined with rugged, concrete Soviet apartments, with the finest examples of old German architecture.
But the importance of Kaliningrad often comes from where it is on the map. A thin plateau south of Kaliningrad separates it from Belarus and connects Poland and Lithuania. Known as the Swalki Corridor or Gap, it is the only land link between the Baltic states and other parts of the European Union.
Kaliningrad is also the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet. RIA Novosti said on Monday that “about 1,000 soldiers and more than 100 military units and specialized equipment of the artillery and missile units are involved in the maneuvers.”
In 2002, the EU and Moscow reached an agreement on travel between Russia and Kaliningrad, before Poland and Lithuania joined the EU in 2004. When those countries merged, the exclave was surrounded by EU territory on three sides. Russia says the 2002 agreement is currently being violated.
Kaliningrad’s importance to Russia has been further enhanced by the annexation of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Dmitry Medvedev, vice-president of the Russian National Security Council, said in May that the merger plans “could not talk about any non-nuclear situation in the Baltic states – the balance must be restored.”
Russia has not acknowledged the presence of nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, but in 2018 the US Federation of Scientists, based on an analysis of satellite images, concluded that Russia has significantly modernized the nuclear storage bunker in the region.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania has been urging NATO to increase its border troops. In April, President Gitanas Nauseda said NATO’s advanced forward battalion should be reduced to “at least” the size of a battalion, and called for the strengthening of the Svalki route.
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