KEY POINTS

  • Russia has deployed the 3K60 Bal system and K-300P Bastion-P missiles
  • Experts believe this is to influence Lithuania, against the transit blockade
  • Meanwhile, the EU is seeking a compromise on the Kaliningrad trade ban 

The European Union (EU) is reportedly moving toward a "compromise deal" with Lithuania to lift the blockade on trade through the country to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. This comes amid reports that Kremlin has positioned advanced anti-ship missiles off the Kaliningrad coast.

Analysis of satellite images has shown that the anti-ship missile systems are deployed to the Mys Taran headland, a prominent landmark mid-way along the exclave’s short coastline, reported Naval News.

Two missile systems - the 3K60 Bal system and K-300P Bastion-P - have been deployed together at Kaliningrad. Each Bal system fires up to eight Kh-35 missiles (resembling Ukraine's Neptune system). Bastion-P has land-attack cruise missile capability, and is considered a serious threat to any surface vessel.

The missiles, particularly Bastion-P, can reach all the way to the Swedish coast on the other side of the Baltic, the report added.

According to defense analyst Benjamin Pittet, Russia is using it more than ever as a means of pressure on the West. "We saw this with the deployment of Kinzhal ballistic missiles a few days before the invasion of Ukraine," he was quoted by Naval News. Pittet added that the current deployment may be to influence Lithuania which is implementing sanctions.

Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that the trade toward Kaliningrad could return to normal within days as European officials are discussing exempting the territory from sanctions. The exclusive report, quoting two sources familiar with the matter, said the deal could materialize in early July if EU member Lithuania drops its reservations.

Lithuania locked the movement of goods to the Kaliningrad from June 17, saying it was upholding EU sanctions. Kaliningrad, which relies on railways and roads through Lithuania for most goods, had since been cut off from Russia. This has infuriated Russia, which warned Lithuania of the consequences.

The report added that the Kaliningrad issue is "testing Europe's resolve to enforce sanctions imposed on Russia" and there are concerns of escalation after the restrictions resulted in Russia defaulting on its debt.

It also has become increasingly difficult for the EU to stand by strict sanctions and avoid further escalation with Russia. This has pushed the EU (with the backing of Germany) to seek a compromise, the report quoted unnamed sources.

"We have to face reality," Reuters quoted one person with direct knowledge of the EU discussions. Describing Kaliningrad as "sacred" for Moscow, he said "(Putin) has much more leverage than we have. It's in our interests to find a compromise."

The EU compromise deal could claim the trade between Russia and Kaliningrad is exempt from sanctions as it is not "normal international trade because the exclave is part of Russia."

The Union could also cite humanitarian grounds as a reason to seek an exemption for Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Lithuania, Poland and the Baltic Sea.

A view shows freight cars, following Lithuania's ban of the transit of goods under EU sanctions through the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, in Kaliningrad, Russia June 21, 2022.
A view shows freight cars, following Lithuania's ban of the transit of goods under EU sanctions through the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, in Kaliningrad, Russia June 21, 2022. Reuters / VITALY NEVAR
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