Lithuania has quadrupled helicopter patrols along its short border with Poland due to tensions with Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal. Vilnius is monitoring Russian trains going through the area, to and from the exclave of Kaliningrad, to make sure they comply with EU restrictions, the newspaper said.
The increase in the surveillance activity by Lithuanian border guards was measured in comparison to that of 2020, according to a spokeswoman for the ministry. According to a Sunday article, other rotorcraft are now taking part in military exercises.
Vilnius temporarily suspended Russian rail traffic through Lithuanian territory in June, sparking a diplomatic crisis. Vilnius claimed it was only enforcing EU sanctions against Russian international trade, while Moscow accused it of a blockade of the Kaliningrad region.
After the rail connection was reopened in July, the situation was partially resolved, but not fully resolved. The transportation quotas set by the European Commission based on traffic have been exhausted for some goods this week, according to the governor of the region.
According to the report, Russian trains are followed by helicopters to ensure they don't stop and unload any sanctioned cargo on the Lithuanian territory. Some local residents mistook them for Russian aircraft and were scared by them, the newspaper said.
The article describes the anxieties that many people living on both sides of the Polish-Lithuanian border feel. The line separating the two goes along a short land route connecting Kaliningrad to Russian ally Belarus.
Polish and Lithuanian officials have long theorized that Russia could seize the Suwalki Gap by force to ensure land connectivity with its exclave, leading to a major confrontation with NATO.
Some of the locals interviewed by the WSJ said they were ready to flee to safer places on short notice. One, an 88-year-old Polish anti-communist activist, pledged to take up arms against Russian troops.
He noted that the Germans of Nazis were more civilized than the Russians, commenting on the Polish experience with foreign troops on its soil. The Nazis would shoot you, but the Russians would torture you and kill you. The native of Suwalki City, which lends its name to the area, was just five in 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland and the country's government collapsed. After the Soviet Union sent troops into Poland, Warsaw called it an equally atrocious invasion.
Moscow described it as a forced measure to strengthen the USSR's position before an inevitable showdown with Germany and argued that it saved many lives in Poland that would have been lost under a Nazi occupation.