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".

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker