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25 Jun, 2007 04:21

Terminal to end Kaliningrad isolation

A new air terminal has opened in Russia's Baltic enclave city of Kaliningrad, making it a transit point between Russian cities and Europe.

Kaliningrad residents will now be able to avoid expensive transit visa payments when travelling to Russia. Travelling by train or car through neighbouring countries has made many people in Kaliningrad feel isolated.

Moscow wants to negotiate a deal with Europe, especially after Poland and Lithuania recently introduced transit fees, but so far there's been no compromise.

“It's true that they now have to pay EUR35 for a visa which was free until now but I think that the development of this region and people can afford it especially because a large number of people do not have to pay for it because they are exempt from it,” Dr. Guido Hertz, Germany's Consul General in Kaliningrad indicates.

Kaliningrad and Moscow are trying to find a solution for the Russian Baltic enclave.

The new transit terminal will provide return, transit flights from many Russian cities to Europe at a cheaper price. 

Now anyone flying from Novosibirsk in Siberia to Munich, London or Barcelona can make a connecting flight in Kaliningrad, avoiding Moscow or St. Petersburg.

When the new terminal is fully completed it will cater for up to 8 MLN passengers per year.

The terminal alone will not bring Kaliningrad any direct money.

Leonid Itskov, Executive Director KD Avia air company says that “it is the transit that gives Kaliningrad the main profit, in economic and ethnic ties as well as accessible ticket prices. The terminal is just a way to achieve this profitable transport system.”

Formerly Prussia, currently Russia

Kaliningrad was known as Koenigsberg – once German's Eastern Prussia – and became part of the Soviet Union in 1945.

Even though completely destroyed during WW2 it still bares traces of its German past.

Kaliningrad is known for its ice-free port, dunes and sandy beaches and, of course, amber. 90% of the world's amber resources are in Kaliningrad region.

But the long neglected enclave is finally recovering from economic slumber. A construction boom is everywhere in the city. Dilapidated German buildings and monuments are being restored.

Guido Hertz believes that “Kaliningrad is seeking for a kind of identity. And they are finding it in the German past of this region. Kaliningrad is a kind of a Western European outpost within Russia.”

Kaliningrad is opening its doors to the West. It is looking towards Europe. But it also wants to be an important and unique part of Russia in the years to come.

The enclave is proving to be a magnet for investment. The latest new airport terminal is a sign of that. If the predictions are correct Kaliningrad could become as equally important transit destination for Russians as Moscow.