Russia warns against ‘games’ around its Western exclave
Moscow has cautioned neighboring European countries against the closure of their borders with Russia and Belarus pointing out that such a scenario would mean the blockade of Russia’s westernmost exclave Kaliningrad.
Earlier this week Latvian and Lithuanian officials made statements regarding the possible closure of their borders with Russia and Belarus in response to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, commenting on the matter, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko expressed hope that “common sense” would prevent the Europeans from “playing with fire.” Such a measure would deprive Kaliningrad residents of the opportunity to reach Russia’s main territory by land.
“I very much hope that common sense in Europe will not allow any games to be played around Kaliningrad. I think many people understand that this is playing with fire,” the deputy minister told the media.
On Tuesday, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said that the Baltic states could close their land borders with Russia and Belarus but only if all three Baltic states make a collective decision.
Pabriks was echoing a statement of the foreign minister of neighboring Lithuania – a country which borders only Russia’s westernmost exclave Kaliningrad and, unlike Latvia and Estonia, does not have a common border with country’s main territory.
According to Gabrielius Landsbergis, a “European or regional solution” is needed for border closure.
On March 31, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland Andrey Deschitsa revealed that his country was involved in ongoing negotiations with Warsaw about closing the border between Poland and Belarus.
Poland and Baltic countries were known for their hard line against Russia even before Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine. Following the launch of the “special military operation” these countries have constantly called on their partners to strengthen sanctions on Moscow and have taken their own measures in this regard. Two weeks ago, Poland expelled 45 Russian diplomats, who Warsaw said were involved in intelligence operations threatening the security of Poland and its allies.
Lithuania was the first EU country to announce that it had “completely abandoned” Russian gas, and the first to expel a Russian ambassador. Both Lithuania and Latvia announced on Monday that they plan to downgrade their diplomatic relations with Moscow.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.