Following the sanctions of the European Union (EU), Lithuania decided to block the partial transit of goods to Kaliningrad, which has provoked protests from Moscow and is fueling tensions between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO).
Besides calling such decision a violation of international law, Russia complains that the blocked cargoes constitute up to 50 percent of the imports made from Kaliningrad, which is a Russian territory that borders Poland and Lithuania, two NATO countries.
Until the end of World War II (1939-1945), Kaliningrad was German territory and was called Könisberg. Once the Soviet Union annexed this European enclave, it acquired the name of Kaliningrad in honor of the revolutionary Mikhail Kalinin.
With an area of 15,100 km², Kaliningrad had a population of 482,443 inhabitants as of 2019. This port city is located at the mouth of the Pregel River, which flows into the Vistula Lake, which in turn communicates with the Baltic Sea through the Baltiysk Strait.
This route allows 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 the island of Kronstadt. After the independence of Lithuania in 1991, Kaliningrad came under Russian sovereignty but was geographically separated from the rest of Russia.
Since the Ukrainian conflict broke out on Feb. 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.