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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 19:27 GMT
Russia's enclave of grim problems
There are few vestiges of Kaliningrad's former glory
By Angus Roxburgh in Kaliningrad

Not much of the ancient German city of Koenigsberg survives.

There is the cathedral and the old Gestapo headquarters - now used by the Russian Secret Police.

After the war the Germans were expelled and it became Kaliningrad - a ghastly Soviet city closed to foreigners for half a century.

Kaliningrad pumps pollution into the Baltic sea
Now the region's future is about to change again.

Poland, just across the border here, and Lithuania to the north, will soon join the European Union and Kaliningrad's Russians will suddenly find themselves shut outside the EU's gates - a little Russian island.

For the enlarged EU to function properly there will have to be open borders and transit routes through here, but that means opening the doors to Kaliningrad's problems too.

They are horrendous: organised crime, drugs, disease, pollution, poverty, economic collapse.

Dirt and disease

At night we saw drug dealers operating quite openly in the streets - and the prostitutes.

If you want these problems solved quickly we will need help from countries that are richer than we are

Kaliningrad Governor Vladimir Yegorov
Kaliningrad is a favourite transit route for criminal gangs trading in drugs and women.

It also has one of Europe's highest rates of HIV infection, mainly transmitted by used needles. Tuberculosis and diphtheria are rife.

The environment is damaged almost beyond repair. The ancient sewage system pours effluent into the rivers and the Baltic Sea.

Local governor Vladimir Yegorov is frank about the situation and its solution.

BMW factory
BMW is one of the few Western firms to invest in Kaliningrad
"We don't intend to spread our diseases around the European Union, but we admit openly that we have these problems," he says.

"If you want them solved quickly we will need help from countries that are richer than we are."

Investment is the best way for the EU to help. BMW have opened a small factory here.

But even though the region has been made a free economic zone to attract investment, few foreigners are following BMW's example.

Kaliningrad has a dream of becoming a Russian Hong Kong on the Baltic, but that is proving as elusive as the little bits of amber that people search for on the beach here.

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