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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Kaliningrad at center of new crisis between Russia and West

Russia Ukraine WarKaliningrad at center of new crisis between Russia and West

Moscow (The Times Groupe)- Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russia located in the Baltic Sea and separated from the country by Lithuania, Latvia, and Belarus, has caused a new regional crisis.

As the war in Ukraine rages on after four months, Lithuania’s decision to block the transit of certain goods on the EU sanctions list to Kaliningrad has once again brought Russia and the West face to face.

Kaliningrad is accessible to Russia by rail over Lithuania, but the region surrounded by NATO members has been at the center of recent discussions.

Additionally, Kaliningrad is the only Russian port on the Baltic that remains ice-free throughout the year, making it a strategic and military asset for the country.

Since the end of World War II, Kaliningrad has been a remote Russian province. Before World War II, Kaliningrad was part of Germany.

At present, Russia has nuclear-capable missiles deployed in an area of 223 square kilometers (86 square miles).

Lithuania blocked the transit of these goods to Kaliningrad, prompting Russia to warn that it would respond severely.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said last week that Vilnius was not acting independently, noting the European Commission’s guidance regarding sanctions in place since June 17.

Under NATO protection, Lithuania is enforcing sanctions on coal, metal, construction, and technology materials.

Moscow also criticized the semi-exclave’s rail transit restrictions from Russia.

As a result, the US offered support to Lithuania, saying that an attack on one NATO member would be considered an attack on all members.

The majority of rail transit between Russia and Kaliningrad passes through Belarus and Lithuania.

Since Russia’s war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24, the EU has imposed six sets of sanctions on Moscow.

These packages include a ban on oil and coal imports as well as luxury goods exports in order to target, among others, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Additionally, they prohibit Russian and Belarusian banks from using SWIFT.

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