Poland opened a channel this Saturday from the Baltic Sea to the Wislahaf, a beach lake along the coast of Poland and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, international news agencies report. Previously, ships to and from the port of the Polish city of Elblag had to circumnavigate the Russian waters around Kaliningrad, which required permission from Russia.

    The first ships sailed through the canal on Saturday under the guidance of brass band music. Still, the canal is not completely finished: to allow larger cargo ships to pass through, it has to be dug deeper. That is expected to cost 100 million zloty (21 million euro), on top of the two billion zloty (0.4 billion euro) that Poland already spent on the work. Polish President Andrzej Duda called the opening Saturday was nevertheless a “big victory”.

    Russia previously used Elblag’s location to put pressure on Poland. In 2006, Russia blocked ships’ access to the port for several years, according to Poland because of anti-Russian rhetoric the government expressed at the time. It is therefore no coincidence that the channel that prevents such blockades in the future was inaugurated on the day Russia invaded Poland 83 years earlier.

    Also read this report from 2009: Waiting idly for the sea