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Poland starts building fence on border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave

Bagrationowsk

Warsaw, Poland – Poland has started building a razor-wire fence on its border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave to stem a potential migration influx, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Wednesday.

The construction of the 2.5-metre-high, 3-metre-wide electric fence along the 210-kilometre-long border comes amid heightened security concerns in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

It follows growing fears that Russia might try to use its Baltic coast exclave to sow chaos at the EU’s doorstep, especially after the Russian aviation authority launched flights from North Africa and the Middle East to Kaliningrad.

Early October, the Khrabrovo airport in Kaliningrad revealed plans to “attract airlines from countries in the Persian Gulf and Asia,” a move Poland’s Defence Minister described as “disturbing”.

Blaszczak also cited the precedent of last year when thousands of migrants, mostly hailing from Middle Eastern and African countries, tried to cross into Poland from Belarus.

Poland and the EU had at the time accused the regime of autocratic Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating the large-scale crisis by facilitating migrants’ transport towards the Polish border to destabilise the EU.

After facing accusations of illegal pushbacks and inhumane treatment of migrants by human rights groups, Poland later built a fence at its border with Belarus to stem the flow, which Defence Minister Blaszczak said would serve as a model for the one under construction at the border with Russia.

It is due to be completed by the end of next year.

Polish officials assured that the fence at the border with Kaliningrad was largely preventive, and that no illegal crossings of the border had taken place.

“The Polish-Russian border is stable and calm,” Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for Poland’s Border Guard, commented. “After what happened on the Polish-Belarusian border, we are even more prepared for everything, for all of the darkest scenarios.”

Located between NATO members Poland and Lithuania, the Kaliningrad enclave is a highly strategic and militarised region for Moscow, providing it with access to the Baltic Sea. An important industrial centre, it’s also home to the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Navy.

A former German territory of East Prussia, it became part of the Soviet Union in 1945, and today counts a population of about 1 million people.