The “Fishing Village” ethnographic, craft and trade center in the Baltic Sea port of Kaliningrad, Russia. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
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KALININGRAD, Russia: The Baltic Sea outpost of Kaliningrad was once touted as Russia's future Hong Kong: separated from the mainland, with a special status that would allow it to thrive through trade. But for Igor Pleshkov, who employs 300 workers in a cement factory in this region of 1 million people wedged between EU members Lithuania and Poland, the future now looks dark.Kaliningrad now has some 80,000 small and medium-sized firms, many involved in manufacturing, thanks in part to special trade status with its EU neighbors.Kaliningrad is hardly the only part of Russia that is hurting.Russia's counter-sanctions included a ban on most EU food imports, wrecking an industry of processing imported meat into canned lunch meat for sale across Russia, which had accounted for nearly a fifth of Kaliningrad's manufacturing.Many locals blame the region's government for not having a plan to support business after the end of the special status regime, beyond relying on government subsidies, set at 66 billion roubles ($1.02 billion) for this year.
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