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Kaliningrad is the new epicentre of the Russia-NATO standoff

  • Published
    30th Jun, 2022
Context

Cutting off Kaliningrad as a result of EU sanctions has elevated the possibility of a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.

About
  • Lithuania, a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), recently banned goods subject to EU sanctions from passing through its territory to the Russian exclave Kaliningrad.
    • Sanctioned goods include coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology.
  • Russia has called the move a “blockade” and promised a stern response.
    • According to Russian officials, the ban will affect 30-50 per cent of cargo traffic but the goods can be rerouted through the Baltic Sea.
  • The implementation of sanctions has strained EU-Russia relations even further.

Importance of Kaliningrad:

  • Kaliningrad is an exclave of Russia, completely separated from the country’s mainland.
  • It is situated between EU and NATO members Lithuania and Poland.
  • It is also the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Sea fleet, and the country’s only ice-free European port.
  • Kaliningrad has a population of approximately one million. Since it does not share a border with Russia, it also relies on the EU for supply of goods.
  • In the past, Russia has deployed its short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, believed to be a threat to the U.S.

Russia’s response

  • Russia has threatened to take measures against Lithuania for implementing a “blockade” and cutting off Kaliningrad. 
  • Cutting off Kaliningrad has elevated the possibility of a direct conflict between Russia and NATO, since the country has threatened to respond to the “hostile actions” with “appropriate measures.”
  • Russia has also blamed the U.S. for the rail transit ban imposed by Lithuania.
    • Russian hacker group Killnet took responsibility for attacking Lithuania’s public services with a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack.
    • The group said that the attack was in response to the rail transit ban.
    • They also threatened that the attacks will continue until Lithuania lifts the ban.
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