Russian pleas for Kaliningrad transit corridor rejected

  • 2002-05-09
  • Agence France Presse

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas sharply rejected persistent Russian pleas for a special transit corridor across Lithuania to Russia's Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad on May 3.

"We do not consider the question of a transit corridor from Kaliningrad, and I think this is unacceptable," Brazauskas told journalists after meeting with the president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox.

"That negative position is shared in Brussels," Cox told journalists.

As Lithuania and Poland move close to joining the EU, Moscow has renewed calls for a special transit corridor to Kaliningrad.

The tiny territory, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic coast, became isolated from the main part of Russia when Lithuania regained independence.

As part of their preparations for EU membership, which could come as soon as 2004, both Lithuania and Poland plan to introduce visa requirements for Russians residing in Kaliningrad from July 2003.

Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Gusarov, who was in Vilnius on May 3 to attend a ministerial conference of the Council of Europe, couched Moscow's demand for a corridor as a human rights concern.

"It is not so much a question of a transit corridor but a question of the fundamental right to freedom of movement," he told journalists.

It was not normal that Russian citizens should need to obtain visas to travel from one Russian city to another, he said.

While Russia has been putting pressure on the EU, Lithuania and Poland to allow continued visa-free travel, diplomats note that the Russian authorities have been slow to issue foreign passports to residents of Kaliningrad.