Home World In Kaliningrad, hostage between Moscow and Europe Against the embargo, we are returning to autarchy

In Kaliningrad, hostage between Moscow and Europe Against the embargo, we are returning to autarchy

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In Kaliningrad, hostage between Moscow and Europe Against the embargo, we are returning to autarchy

KALININGRAD – A huge poster on the facade reminds us that this establishment on the eastern outskirts of Kaliningrad was the first, 25 years ago, to assemble a foreign car in Russia. But after the sanctions following the so-called “special military operation” blocked Western imports also in the automotive sector, the historic Avtotor factory that produced BMW, Kia and Hyundai was forced to suspend work for about twenty days last month. “In the end, however, no one was fired. Someone was assigned a new job. There are even those who have been hijacked to pick apples, strawberries and blueberries on a state farm,” explains veteran Tatjana Sytykh, who has been employed for twenty years. to painting. “We all continue to receive salaries. For now.” His 38-year-old colleague Sergej, who prefers to remain anonymous, shares the optimism. He is not upset even in the face of the recent decision by neighboring Lithuania to ban rail transit of goods subject to European sanctions. “We must not panic. The situation will soon clear up.” Yet when at the beginning of May the factory offered its 3,500 employees 300 hectares of land already plowed, harrowed and ready for planting, Sergej was one of around 170 who stepped forward and won a “10 sotka”, one hundred meter garden. paintings. “If the situation gets worse, at least we will eat potatoes.”

L’ex Königsberg

L’ex Koenigsberg, the heart of East Prussia before the USSR annexed it in 1945 and renamed Kaliningrad in memory of a Stalin lieutenant, is a historical and geographical anomaly. Isolated and secret Soviet military bastion overlooking the Baltic Sea, with the collapse of the USSR and the enlargement of the European Union, it found itself trapped between Lithuania and Poland, two EU countries and NATO. A Russian “island”, as its inhabitants call it, in the heart of the West.

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The whole city is a monument to his schizophrenic identity. The Russification campaign following the exodus of the Germans and the colonization from various Soviet regions almost completely erased the Teutonic heritage. Red brick houses are surrounded by gray modern barracks and Orthodox crosses shine on the neo-Gothic churches with their copper-colored spiers. On the Kneiphof island, the philosopher Immanuel Kant has rested since 1804 in the shadow of the Königsberg Dom, one of the few buildings that survived the British bombing and the Soviet leveling of the Teutonic ruins. While the monstrous concrete and steel carcass of the Dom Sovietov, the never occupied House of the Soviets, nicknamed the “buried robot”, threatens the opposite bank of the Pregel River. Everywhere there is a feeling of “double periphery”: territorially distant from “Greater Russia”, as it is called, and ideologically distant from neighboring Europe. Since Moscow launched the offensive in Ukraine four months ago, the exclave has become the Russian region most vulnerable to the war of sanctions and counter-sanctions and the escalation of tensions with the West.

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The special economic zone

Bans and restrictions on imports have already brought the duty-free “Special Economic Zone,” Zes, to its knees since 1996, which since 1996 allowed companies like Avtotor to make money by assembling products with foreign components and selling them on the Russian market. And the so-called “Kaliningrad blockade” has further aggravated the situation: the restrictions imposed by Vilnius apply to about half of the goods in transit by rail, including building materials from July, coal from August and fuel from December. Moscow, through the mouth of the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova, yesterday threatened a “practical and non-diplomatic” response.

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Various hypotheses are circulating in the media: the revocation of the recognition of the independence of Vilnius, already advanced in the bill presented a few days ago by the deputy of the Duma Yevgeny Fedorov; the revocation of the agreements that in 2002 allowed Lithuania to join the EU; the claim of the Lithuanian city on the Klapeida border; the disconnection of Lithuania from the Brell energy ring which also connects Estonia, Latvia and Belarus, proposed yesterday by the president of the Commission for Internal Affairs of the Duma Leonid Slutsky; finally, the construction of the “Suwalki corridor”, a land passage between Kaliningrad and Belarus along the border between Poland and Lithuania. A step that would inevitably trigger a confrontation with NATO.

Hostages of Russia and the West

“As always, we Kaliningrads become hostages of Russia and the West. Prices have risen and the assortment in shops has shrunk. In the usual food kit, something is already missing. What is there, is much more expensive. . The hardest hit are local hauliers. Production is down. Several companies are closing down, “says Jacov Grigoriev, a logistics operator for twenty years, as well as a well-known local activist. “Surprisingly, however, the new governor will be elected in the autumn. There are already posters everywhere. The authorities pretend that everything is as usual.”

In the large Baucenter building specialist shop on Moskovskij Prospekt, the road that would lead to Moscow via Lithuania, sales clerk Artjom Madjada alerts buyers: “There is no more concrete”. There were six hundred packages, he explains, but they sold like hot cakes when the store opened. “After the announcement of the block, this happens every morning,” explains Viktor Rijinkov as he sorts materials between the shelves to disguise the gaps. Meanwhile, on his Telegram channel, Governor Anton Alikhanov promises seven new ferries or cargo ships to increase sea freight along the Ust-Luga-Baltijsk route and invites tourists to visit the region: “Don’t be afraid of the word” block “. The weather is wonderful, the planes fly, there are 50 flights a day.” “But take the concrete with you”, jokes someone in the comments.
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