Russia opens sea route to Kaliningrad to break 'blockade'

Russia has broken what it regarded as an unfriendly European Union blockade of Kaliningrad by opening a sea route to connect the heavily militarised Russian enclave with "the motherland" for the first time.

A sliver of Russian territory sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad found itself marooned hundreds of miles from the Russian mainland when the two countries joined the EU in 2004.

Since then the enclave has been a source of tension between Moscow and Brussels, with Russia arguing that its access to the region is hampered by Lithuania's government, with which it enjoys frosty relations.

Russia's fears were compounded recently when Vilnius threatened to close the main rail route into Kaliningrad "for repairs" in a tit-for-tat row with Moscow over oil supplies. Moscow is therefore billing the new twice-weekly ferry service as an antidote to what has been sarcastically called a new iron or "blue" curtain (the colour of the European Union flag). From now on the Kremlin will be able to supply its most westerly region via a one-day sea route stretching across the Baltic Sea from the port of Baltiisk in the Kaliningrad region to the port of Ust-Luga in the Leningrad region, near St Petersburg.

The route, which will initially be only for cargo shipments but may be extended to passenger services, was inaugurated on Sunday under the watchful eye of President Vladimir Putin, who hailed it as "a matter of national security". Russia's state-owned Rossiya television channel was more blunt; it said the route would "deprive the Baltic states of an instrument of influence over Russia". Symbolically the first cargo load included artillery equipment being sent back to the Russian mainland for repair.

Russian television showed Sergey Ivanov, the Defence Minister, complaining that Lithuania had prevented Moscow from transiting such equipment in the past. The service does not yet have the capacity to replace the rail service completely since Russia does not have enough ferries and needs to build at least four more vessels. That Kaliningrad even exists is a quirk of history. It was originally called Konigsberg and was part of German East Prussia but in 1945 it had a dramatic "rebranding" when the Red Army seized it from the Nazis as a trophy of war and it was subsumed into the USSR.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 it found itself cut off from Russia and when the European Union borders washed over it in 2004 life became even more complicated. Shifting geopolitics left the region, which is the headquarters of Russia's Baltic Fleet and home to one million Russian citizens, in a situation that Russian nationalists compared to the Soviet blockade of West Berlin from 1948 to 1949.

Today, to Russians' annoyance, they must apply for Lithuanian travel documents to visit what is another part of their own country since they must transit Lithuania to get there. However, the new ferry service will allow Moscow to re-supply Kaliningrad without having to cross Lithuania, a country the Kremlin perceives as "unfriendly".

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is recr...

Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16k - £22k

£16000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager / Invoice Finance £75k OTE

£40000 - £50000 per annum + £75,000 OTE Car+Mobile : h2 Recruit Ltd: Business ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Managed Services-£80,000 OTE

£45000 - £80000 per annum + £80,000 OTE + Car,benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Busine...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital