Russians in cut-off enclave face food shortages as import embargo bites

Damian picBy Damian Grabiec

Almost a million Russians in Kaliningrad, an isolated enclave squeezed between Poland and Lithuania, are facing empty supermarket shelves as Moscow’s embargo on food imports from Europe hits them hard.

“My family and lots of my friends are going to Poland to buy basic vegetables and fruit because it’s increasingly hard to get them here,” Ksenia Pavlova, a Russian woman from Kaliningrad told London Journalism Centre. “As the situation gets worse, I’m afraid we’ll have to buy most of our food there.”

Residents of the Russian outpost, which produces virtually no food of its own, are forming long queues at the Polish border as they wait to cross to stock up with basic grocery supplies.

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Russian cars queuing to cross from Kaliningrad to Poland last week

“Since the Russian embargo has been put in to place, we have observed an increase in Russians coming from Kaliningrad,” says Polish customs spokesman Ryszard Chudy, based at Olsztyn, a city close to the border. “Until now Kaliningrad could import food it needed from EU countries, but now people need to come to Poland and buy food privately.”

Polish shopkeepers are reporting bumper sales as residents of the Kaliningrad enclave flood across the border to buy food, taking advantage of the lifting of visa restrictions agreed by Poland and Russia two years ago.

“Russians have been coming here to buy everything, from home electronics to cleaning supplies,” says, “Janina Kowalik, the owner of a small Polish store close to the border. “But now they are focused mostly on food and they are already majority of my customers.”