View from Europe: Putin remind people in Kaliningrad, that “you’re Russia”

10:18 27.01.2024 •

Vladimir Putin leaves a commemorative note at Kant Baltic Federal University where he also gave a talk to students.

Vladimir Putin has raised fears of war with NATO by threatening the EU nations bordering Kaliningrad on a surprise visit to the Russian exclave, stresses ‘The Telegraph’ from London.

The Russian president flew into the territory, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, amid growing concern it could become the flashpoint for a future conflict.

Putin appeared to taunt the Baltic nations, flying close to Estonia and hugging the coasts of Latvia and Lithuania in his “Flying Kremlin” presidential plane, before landing in Kaliningrad.

Fighter jets were deployed off the eastern coast of the Swedish island of Gotland as Putin approached the Baltic Sea.

Talking to students at the Kant Baltic Federal University, Putin hit out at Kaliningrad’s neighbours for tearing down Soviet war memorials.

“This is stunning ignorance and lack of understanding of where they live, what they are doing and what will follow,” he said.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said the visit was not intended to send a warning to NATO but for the purpose of boosting “development.”

“When the president visits the regions of the Russian Federation, it is not a message to NATO countries,” Mr Peskov said.

“The most important thing is not to send messages, but to do what he has been doing for many years – working on the development of our country and our regions.”

The timing of Putin’s visit to the heart of Europe – amid a heightened Russian threat of a wider war with the West – is significant.

Camille Grand, an analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said Putin was sending several messages, including reminding people in Kaliningrad that “you’re Russia”.

“This is in my view a clear attempt to signal that the Baltic Sea is no Nato sea after Finland and Sweden applied to join Nato,” he said.

It was also “a way to remind the West that Russia has military assets in Kaliningrad,” he added.

Before his presidential plane landed in Kaliningrad, which Putin last visited shortly after the invasion in 2022, a Nato reconnaissance plane from the Dutch air force circled over the Baltic Sea.

An RAF Boeing RC-135W electronic reconnaissance aircraft also allegedly approached the Kaliningrad region, as well as a French reconnaissance aircraft, according to Russian reports.

Boris Pistorius, Germany’s defence minister, warned neither the country’s army nor its public was ready for a war with Russia.

Addressing trainee soldiers at the German military academy in Hamburg, Mr Pistorius said: “Are we seriously ready to defend this country? And who is this ‘we’? This debate has to be had.”


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