- Russia angry at the ban on goods crossing to Kaliningrad
- Putin ally warns Lithuania of retaliatory measures
- Russia-backed separatists claim advances in eastern Ukraine
- US attorney general, in Ukraine, pledges action on war crimes
Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia threatened on Tuesday to punish Lithuania with measures that would have a “serious negative effect” on blocking some rail shipments to Moscow’s Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad, in the latest dispute over sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine. .
Inside Ukraine, Russian forces and their separatist proxies made further advances in the east, pushing them toward Lyschansk, the main stronghold of Kiev now in the most violent fighting zone in the eastern Donbass that Moscow claims is for the separatists.
Ukraine, with its troops and weapons dwarfed by Russian forces, begged the West to send more and better artillery. On Tuesday, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov announced the arrival of powerful German self-propelled howitzers. Read more
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Because of Western sanctions, Russia has begun to pump reduced amounts of gas to Europe via Ukraine. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the curtailed flows amounted to an economic attack on Germany that “cannot be allowed to succeed”. Read more
Diplomatic attention has turned toward Russia’s enclave of Kaliningrad, a port on the Baltic Sea and the surrounding countryside where nearly a million Russians live, connected to the rest of Russia by a railway that runs through European Union and NATO member Lithuania.
Lithuania has closed the transport route of steel and other ferrous metals, which it says is required under European Union sanctions that took effect on Saturday. Russian officials say other essential goods have also been banned.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, visited the enclave on Tuesday to chair a security meeting there. He said Lithuania’s actions showed that Russia could not trust the West, which he said had broken written agreements on Kaliningrad.
“Russia will certainly respond to such hostilities,” Patrushev was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying. Without going into details, he said that “appropriate measures” are being worked on and “their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the residents of Lithuania.”
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonetti said it was “paradoxical” to hear Russia complain about alleged violations of international law, given that it had violated “perhaps every single international treaty”.
Moscow summoned European Union envoy Markus Eder to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. EU spokesman Peter Stano said Eder had asked the Russians at the meeting to “refrain from escalatory steps and rhetoric.”
The standoff creates a new source of confrontation in the Baltic Sea, an area already prepared for security reforms that would weaken Russia’s naval power as Sweden and Finland apply to join NATO and put almost the entire coast into the alliance zone.
The EU has sought to shrug off responsibility for Lithuania, saying the policy is a collective action by the bloc.
Diplomats said that in a symbolic but morale-boosting decision, Ukraine is set to become an official candidate for European Union membership on Thursday.
US Attorney Merrick Garland became the latest high-profile international figure to visit Ukraine, confirming on Tuesday Washington’s commitment to identifying, arresting and prosecuting those implicated in war crimes during the Russian invasion. Read more
In some of the bloodiest battles in Europe since World War II, Russia has made slow progress in the Donbass since April at the cost of the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
Some of the battles extended over the Seversky Donets River which runs through the Donbass, with Russian forces mainly on the east bank and Ukrainian forces mainly in the west.
But Ukrainian forces – and an estimated 500 civilians – remain trapped in a chemical plant in the eastern bank city of Severodonetsk, despite weeks of heavy bombardment.
The governor of Luhansk Province, Serhiy Gaidai, confirmed that Toshkivka, a settlement on the West Bank to the south, had fallen into the hands of the Russians. This could boost Moscow’s hopes of cutting Lysychansk off Ukraine-controlled territory.
Rodion Miroshnik, the ambassador to Russia of the pro-Moscow separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said troops were “moving from the south towards Lysekhansk” with battles raging in a number of towns.
“The coming hours should bring about major changes in the balance of power in the region,” he said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s General Staff said that Russian forces had captured several other settlements south of Lysichansk.
Separately, police in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city located in the north near the border with Russia, said five people were killed and 11 wounded on Tuesday when Russian missiles hit an industrial building.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said its missiles hit an airport near the port of Odessa in response to a Ukrainian attack on gas production platforms in the Black Sea.
Reuters was not able to independently verify either report.
Although the fighting has been in Russia’s favor in recent weeks due to its massive superiority in artillery firepower, some Western military analysts say that Russia’s failure to make significant progress so far means that time is now on the Ukrainian side.
Moscow is running out of new forces, while Ukraine is receiving newer and better equipment from the West, retired US Lieutenant General Mark Hurtling, former commander of US Ground Forces in Europe, tweeted.
“It’s a heavyweight boxing match,” Hurtling wrote. “In two months of fighting, there hasn’t been a knockout hit yet. It will come, as the Rotian Union’s forces become more and more depleted.”
Russia says its “special military operation” aims to disarm Ukraine and protect it from “fascists”. Kyiv and its Western backers say this is a false excuse to launch an unjustified war of aggression.
And in another reminder of the war’s heavy toll, mourners in the western city of Lviv buried 27-year-old Artem Daimid, who his father said had returned from the United States to fight.
“When the all-out invasion began, where was he? On the front lines, of course,” said Ole Tyakhnibok, a relative. “He was an angel and will continue to be an angel to our family.”
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Reporting from the Reuters offices Writing by Peter Graf and Gareth Jones Editing by Nick McPhee and Mark Heinrich
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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