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Lithuania And Russia: A David-Goliath Standoff Getting Riskier By The Day

Vilnius is reportedly working out new rules with Brussels on allowing the transit of sanctioned Russian goods through Lithuania to the Kaliningrad enclave. But in the meantime, restrictions remain — and so does defiance vis-à-vis Moscow.

KALININGRAD — At a hardware store in Kaliningrad, men and women are heaving bags of cement into their shopping carts, while others film them on their mobile phones in disbelief. This scene, which did the rounds on social media in June, sums up the atmosphere in the Russian exclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania.

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The anxiety in Russia’s westernmost territory is palpable. Some residents are worried there will be shortages of products that were easily obtainable before restrictions came into force, while others are hoping everything will stay the same.

The population of Kaliningrad Oblast sits at around a million — of which 800,000 live in the city itself. Now they are in limbo. Lithuania’s implementation of EU sanctions means that although land routes to Russia are not completely shut off, the supply situation in the Russian exclave is uncertain.

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Flashback In The USSR? How Former Soviet Republics Are Reacting To War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has been upfront about his desire to rebuild Russia’s influence in the region. Former Soviet states are watching developments in Ukraine closely, with many trying to ensure futures free of interference by Moscow.

For 69 years, the Kremlin was able to keep what were de facto separate nations within the Soviet orbit by the use of weapons, hunger and fear. Even after the collapse of the USSR, every Russian leader considered the former republics to be at least a zone of his influence.

Yet Vladimir Putin has revealed his true understanding of neighborliness, repeatedly stating that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a huge tragedy for Russia. And on this, one might agree, he is right.

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Under the Communist Party, each of the national republics also had their own government, albeit ultimately controlled by the Kremlin. Each of the republics, whether in Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, or Ukraine, had their own capital, culture, language and traditions. For each of the national republics, secession from the Soviet Union brought liberation and independence — an opportunity to build their own state. For every former member state, that is, except Russia.

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China As Goliath: How Little Lithuania Defies Beijing

No other European state strikes a more confident tone toward China than Lithuania. Vilnius is resisting all the usual means of pressure — and has a clear demand that Europe and Germany defend their values.

VILNIUS — With its small population and modest economy, Lithuania has a reputation of being a minor actor on the European political stage. But under Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas, it's breaking from the pack in a very notable way: attempting to strong arm China as the People's Republic vies for increasing global dominance.

While this might seem like a diplomatic and economic suicide mission, Adomenas sees few risks in promoting Lithuania's vision of democracy.This isn't a recent policy change: A member of the center-right Homeland Union, Adomenas says his party's China position had been maturing for a long time. When the Homeland Union was elected to government, Lithuania's relationship with China was essentially fixed along this hard line. It just had to be brought to life.

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Storming The Lithuanian Castle

The red-brick Gothic castle on the Lithuanian island of Trakai looks like it's straight out of a fairy tale. However the spell was broken when a full garrison of soldiers made their rowdy entrance in the courtyard.

food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

The Dashing Priests Of Vilnius

The many beautiful Roman Catholic churches in Lithuania's capital are a sight to be seen ... as are the glorious beards of certain priests strolling the city's streets.

Bertrand Hauger

Vilnius, Hindsight In Focus

I said it before: I took pictures of places (more than of people) to remember where I went. But looking at this photo now, rather than focusing on the panorama of Lithuania's capital, I wish I'd chosen to see my wife Claudine more clearly...


Eurovision Contestants 2015: Lithuania

Lithuania’s history in the Eurovision Song Contest is unfortunately pretty bad. Since its first run in 1994, the country has made 15 appearances, more or less interspersed by failed attempts to qualify, lack of funds and threats to boycott the show if Russia didn’t stop invading countries.

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Gerhard Gnauck

Building The New Elite Of Belarus - In Lithuania

Much more freedom is allowed in Lithuania than across the border in Belarus, where strongman Alexander Lukashenko shut down top universities.

VILNIUS — If I close my eyes for a moment, I’m transported back to a German university town somewhere along the Neckar river — Tübingen, perhaps, or Heidelberg. Hölderlin, Heidegger, Kant, Hannah Arendt are among the names that surface in my conversation with Belarusian philosopher Anatoli Mikhailov.

We aren't anywhere near the banks of the Rhine, however, but on the shores of the Neris, a tributary of the Memel River, in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. This is the stomping ground of Mikhailov, 74, a recipient of the German Goethe medal, and founder and rector of the European Humanities University (EHU).

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Frank Nienhuysen

After Ukraine, Russia Aims Bully Tactics At Lithuania

Moscow has already made it clear to Ukraine that it should stop reaching out to Western Europe. The same message is being sent to Lithuania, which is already an EU member.

VILNIUS — He had been warned. First there were hints in the Russian papers, then in the Lithuanian ones, but what could he have done? Dalius Trumpa still doesn’t know what he can do to keep Russia happy.

“We are always ready to improve our quality, but the Russians haven’t told us anything concrete,” he says. Trumpa is vice president of Rokisko Suris, the largest milk processing company in the Baltic States. On Oct. 7 his trucks were turned back at the Russian border and had to take their stocks of cheese and butter back to the warehouse in Lithuania.

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