Kaliningrad, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, is a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, two countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)), which focuses on the tensions generated by the sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) against Moscow because of the military offensive in Ukraine.
Kaliningrad is also a Russian forward military outpost in Europe, and a crucial strategic asset.
But the region is also isolated in territory hostile to Russia, surrounded by two NATO and EU member states that staunchly support Ukraine against the Russians.
From Germany to Russia
Kaliningrad was not always Russian. Founded in 1255 during the Germanic expansion into Slavic territory, the city was originally called Königsberg.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant, born in 1724, spent most of his life in Königsberg, then a Prussian city
The city was conquered by the Soviets in April 1945 after a fierce fight with the Nazis, and named Kaliningrad
The territory of just over 200 square kilometers has a million inhabitants, half of them in the city of Kaliningrad, administrative capital of the territory of the same name.
Since the 19th century, the region has been an economic turntable between the Germanic and Russian worlds. Since 1996, the territory is also a special economic zone.
The enclave benefits from its two ice-free ports -Kaliningrad and Baltiisk- and its road and rail connections to trade with its neighbors
However, in mid-June Lithuania introduced restrictions on the transit of goods affected by European sanctions by rail, which go from Russian territory to the Kaliningrad region.
These products include metals, cement, alcohol, fertilizers, with the intention of expanding the list later to coal and oil
According to Moscow these restrictions violate a 2002 agreement between Russia and the EU when Lithuania joined the EU.
Denouncing a “blockade”, Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alijanov estimated that 40% to 50% of the enclave’s supplies via Lithuania could be affected.
The territory has an important military tradition, and served as a stronghold during the two world wars, and as a defensive bastion during the Cold War
Faced with the expansion of NATO, Moscow has reinforced its military presence in Kaliningrad, organizing important maneuvers.
In recent years, nuclear vector missiles and S-400 anti-aircraft defense systems have been installed there.
In February 2022, Russia deployed hypersonic missiles there, just before its troops entered Ukraine.
It is also there that the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet is located.