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Putin Makes Surprise Visit to Kaliningrad, Possibly Shaking Up NATO Neighbors

Russia’s President Putin put the fear of God in its next-door neighbors, and probably with the whole NATO leadership, with an unannounced trip to Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast. Traveling by plane to Kaliningrad involved skirting the borders of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia - all locations prone to reacting to any activity in the Kaliningrad part of Russia. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri Peskov called Putin’s visit a working visit. He met with students at the Kant Baltic University there as well as with the governor of the Kaliningrad region, Anton Alikhanov. There was some back-and-forth with the students, as Putin is wont to do on these trips, so as to find out the problems they are facing and to encourage them to continue with their studies. He will also hold a meeting on the socio-economic development of the region.

There are plans in Kaliningrad to create a new cultural and educational center on Oktyabrsky island in the Kaliningrad region, which would include a filial of the Tretyakov Gallery, the Bolshoi Theater, and the State Institute of Performing Arts. According to the discussion, there is considerable foreign investment still coming to the region, and tourism is expanding. Being situated on the Baltic coast, Kaliningrad has an advantage that other Russian regions do not have. Now that Latvia and Estonia are no longer catering to the Russian consumer, greater interest has been shown in Kaliningrad. Air and train traffic is on the increase and a major plant for production of solar arrays, catering to the Russian market and others, is being built in the region.