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27 Feb, 2024 14:49

EU state threatens to ‘neutralize’ Russian region

Kaliningrad will be the first to suffer consequences if Moscow “dares to challenge NATO,” Lithuania’s envoy to Sweden says
EU state threatens to ‘neutralize’ Russian region

Western countries will “neutralize” Russia’s westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad if Moscow seriously endangers NATO’s security, Lithuania’s ambassador to Sweden Linas Linkevicius has said.

Writing on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, Linkevicius who previously served as Lithuania’s defense and foreign minister, claimed that the Baltic Sea had become NATO’s internal space after Sweden “was integrated” into the alliance.

On Monday, Hungary became the last NATO member to ratify the Nordic nation’s bid to join the bloc, thus removing the only remaining serious obstacle on Stockholm’s path to the alliance. Budapest had for more than a year been reluctant to do so, rebuking Stockholm over “unfair and unjust” remarks about the state of Hungarian democracy.

Sweden, along with its neighbor Finland, applied to join NATO in 2022 after the start of the Ukraine conflict.

In his post, Linkevicius warned that “if Russia dares to challenge NATO, Kaliningrad would be “neutralized first.”

Responding to Linkevicius’ comments, Alexandr Shenderyuk-Zhidkov, a Russian senator from Kaliningrad Region, remarked that Lithuanian politicians have long been “waging a virtual war” against the exclave, adding that local authorities don’t pay much attention to such statements. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow has no plans to attack NATO, stressing that his country “has no interest… geopolitically, economically or militarily” in doing so.

Kaliningrad (formerly Konigsberg) belonged to Germany until the end of World War II, when it was handed over to the USSR under the Potsdam Agreement. It remained part of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and, after several consecutive waves of NATO expansion, found itself completely surrounded by the bloc’s members.

In October, Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics suggested that NATO could consider closing the Baltic Sea to Russian shipping if it turned out that Russia was behind a leak in the Balticonnector gas pipeline which connects Finland and Estonia. The move would have essentially cut off Kaliningrad from the rest of the country. 

However, later the same month, Finnish police confirmed that they had found a six-ton anchor near the rupture site. Investigators suggested that it had fallen from a Chinese vessel, causing the leak.

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