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Russia warns Lithuania as Kremlin forces push into Ukraine’s Donbas

1. Ukraine
A partially destroyed educational and laboratory building of a college hit the day before by a rocket in Kharkiv on June 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
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KYIV — Moscow on Tuesday warned Lithuania of “serious” consequences over its restriction of rail traffic to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, as Kremlin forces made gains in Ukraine’s strategic Donbas region.اضافة اعلان

The row over Lithuania, the arrival of sophisticated German weaponry in Ukraine’s arsenal, and an imminent decision on Ukraine’s candidacy to join the EU threaten to further ratchet up tensions between the West and Moscow.

Kremlin troops were meanwhile gaining ground in the Donbas, causing “catastrophic destruction” in Lysychansk, an industrial city at the forefront of recent clashes, the region’s governor said. Ukraine confirmed Russia had taken the frontline village of Toshkivka.

Governor Sergiy Gaiday said “every town and village” in Ukrainian hands in Lugansk region was “under almost non-stop fire”.

Since being repelled from Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine following its invasion in February, Moscow is focusing its offensive on the strategic Donbas region.

In the eastern town of Sloviansk, which could become a flash point as Russian troops advance from the north, local people were preparing to withstand attacks and the authorities said the community would defend itself.

‘Serious’ consequences
Russia’s war of words with EU member Lithuania escalated on Tuesday, with Moscow vowing “serious” consequences over Vilnius’ restrictions on rail traffic to the exclave of Kaliningrad.

Lithuania says it is simply adhering to EU-wide sanctions on Moscow but Russia countered, accusing Brussels of “escalation”.

Moscow summoned the EU’s ambassador to Russia. Its foreign ministry said Lithuania’s actions “violate the relevant legal and political obligations of the EU”.

“Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions,” security council chief Nikolai Patrushev said at a regional security meeting in Kaliningrad, a Russian region bordering Lithuania and Poland.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted that powerful German-made Panzerhaubitze 2000 howizter artillery pieces had joined his country’s forces.

On the ground, the police chief of the Kyiv region said victims of the Russian attempt to seize the capital city continued to be found. So far, the bodies of 1,333 civilians have been discovered and 300 people remain missing.

On the maritime front, Russia’s navy is blockading ports, which Ukraine says is preventing millions of tonnes of grain from being shipped to world markets, contributing to soaring food prices.

Russia said Tuesday it had repelled a Ukrainian attempt to re-take the symbolic Snake Island, a small territory in the Black Sea captured by Russian forces on the first day of the invasion.

Prior to the war, Ukraine was a major exporter of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.

With European officials due to gather this week at a summit expected to approve Ukraine’s candidacy to join the EU, Brussels foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the Russians’ port blockade “a real war crime”.

He said it was happening “while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger”.

Moscow denies responsibility for the disruption to deliveries and, following Borrell’s comments, blamed the West’s “destructive” position for surging grain prices.

Growing concerns about a food crisis are “the fault of Western regimes, which act as provokers and destroyers”, said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv was engaged in “complex negotiations” to unblock grain exports, although he cautioned that there was no progress as yet.

In an address to the African Union, Zelensky said the continent was a “hostage” of the conflict, and rising food prices had “already brought (the war) to the homes of millions of African families”.

The EU has pledged an additional 600 million euros to help vulnerable nations weather the food security crisis.


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