Following European Union (EU) sanctions, Lithuania decided to block partial transit of goods to Kaliningrad, which sparked protests from Moscow and stoked tensions between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty ( NATO).
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In addition to calling this decision a violation of international law, Russia complains that the blocked shipments constitute up to 50% of imports from Kaliningrad, which is Russian territory bordering Poland and Lithuania, two countries of NATO.
Until the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), Kaliningrad was German territory and was called Könisberg. Once the Soviet Union annexed this European enclave, it acquired the name Kaliningrad in honor of revolutionary Mikhail Kalinin.
Covering an area of 15,100 km², Kaliningrad had a population of 482,443 in 2019. This port city is located at the mouth of the Pregel River, which flows into Lake Vistula, which in turn communicates with the Baltic Sea through the Baltiysk Strait.
This route allows a maritime exit to the ports of Baltiysk and Kaliningrad in Russia, as well as to the Polish ports of Elbląg, Braniewo, Tolkmicko, Frombork, Sztutowo, Krynica Morska and Nowa Pasłęka.
Due to its strategic location, Kaliningrad was one of the Soviet Union’s main naval bases in the Baltic Sea, along with Riga and Kronstadt Island. After Lithuania’s independence in 1991, Kaliningrad came under Russian sovereignty but was geographically separated from the rest of Russia.
Since the Ukrainian conflict erupted on February 24, the geopolitical importance of Kaliningrad has become much more evident since it would allow Russia to secure its defenses against any hostility coming from NATO countries.