The Polish authorities have reported a significant increase in the number of people crossing the border with the Kaliningrad region in order to fly to Russia for Russian Christmas. According to the Polish Border Guard, around 17,014 people crossed the Bezledy and Grzechotki borders in a period of five days between December 23 and 27. During the same period, a total of 4,998 vehicles were registered crossing the border. This surge in crossings is significantly higher than usual, with expectations for high numbers in the first days of January as well, as Russian Christmas is celebrated on January 7.
The European Union’s sanctions on Russia have made it difficult for Russians to take direct flights from the EU. Instead, many Russians are reaching the Kaliningrad region and Türkiye, then flying to Russia from there. This has caused an influx of people, particularly from Germany, with a large Russian population, traveling to Kaliningrad’s Khrabrovo Airport and then flying to Moscow or St Petersburg.
While this travel option is convenient for Russians, it has caused frustration among the ethnic Polish population in Kaliningrad. Those with Russian-registered cars feel it is unfair that they are unable to cross the border while Russians with EU-registered cars are permitted to do so. Despite holding Polish citizenship or a Karta Polaka, which confirms their ethnicity, they are unable to travel freely to and from Poland. Some have reported having to pay exorbitant fees to someone with EU registration plates to take them to and from the EU.
Of the total number of people who crossed the Polish border with the Kaliningrad region between December 23 and 27, only 824 of them were Poles, indicating that they are facing challenges in travel due to the restrictions. These travel dynamics have created a complex and frustrating situation for the ethnic Polish population in the Kaliningrad region.
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