Last Saturday, Lithuania banned the transit of goods subjected to European Union sanctions through its territory to the Russian exclave Kaliningrad, which is in the Baltic Sea and about 1,300km (800 miles) from Moscow.
Lithuania said the move was in line with European sanctions. Infuriated, Moscow called it a “blockade” and promised to respond.
The banned goods include coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology, which make up 50 percent of Kaliningrad imports, according to the region’s governor, Anton Alikhanov.
Russia has demanded the restrictions are lifted, slamming Lithuania’s actions as “openly hostile” against Kaliningrad.
Sandwiched between EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, the region receives supplies from Russia via rail and gas pipelines through Lithuania.
Kaliningrad was part of Germany until the end of the World War II, when it was given to the Soviet Union at the Potsdam Conference in 1945.
The westernmost state of Russia has roughly 1 million residents, mainly Russians but also a small number of Ukrainians, Polish and Lithuanians.
The rising tension is fuelling fears over the Suwałki Gap, an 80km (50-mile) land corridor crossing southeastern Poland and Lithuania, which is critical to the security of the Baltic states as it could connect Russia’s Kaliningrad and Belarus.
Al Jazeera spoke with Agnia Grigas, a senior fellow and expert on energy and geopolitics at the Atlantic Council, regarding the situation in Kaliningrad, its possible implications on the war in Ukraine, and the future of the region.
Al Jazeera: How would you characterise Lithuania’s ban?
Agnia Grigas: This is certainly not solely a Lithuanian decision, but a decision made in Brussels to…