- Russian official warns Lithuania of retaliatory measures
- Russian-backed separatists claim advance in eastern Ukraine
- EU states present measures to tackle gas supply crisis
KYIV, June 21 (Reuters) – Russia warned Lithuania on Tuesday it would face measures of “serious negative impact” for blocking some rail shipments to the Moscow enclave of Kaliningrad, as part of of its latest dispute over Western sanctions imposed on the country. for the war in Ukraine.
Russian forces and separatists in eastern Ukraine have made further advances, pushing towards the town of Lysychansk, the main stronghold of Ukrainian forces in an area that is part of the Donbass region that Moscow claims for the separatists .
Ukraine continues to ask the West to send more artillery. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Tuesday announced the arrival of powerful German self-propelled howitzers. Read more
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In retaliation for Western sanctions, Russia has started pumping reduced volumes of gas to Europe via Ukraine. European Union states, from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Adriatic in the south, have mapped out measures to deal with a supply crisis after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February placed the energy at the heart of an economic battle between Moscow and the West. Read more
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the dwindling flows amounted to an economic attack on Germany that “cannot be allowed to succeed”.
Diplomatic attention has turned to Kaliningrad, a Russian city located between Poland and Lithuania with a population of nearly one million. It is connected to the rest of Russia by a rail link via Lithuania, a member of the EU and NATO.
Lithuania has closed the road for transporting steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is required to do under EU sanctions which came into force on Saturday. Lithuania is also blocking food transport, jeopardizing food security in the region, TASS news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman as saying.
Lithuanians living just across the border said they trusted NATO as a deterrent to any potential Russian attack.
“Nothing bad will happen (…) because Lithuania is in NATO and in the European Union,” said Vitalijus Sidiskis, 59, while acknowledging that it was difficult to predict what the Russia could do. Read more
Meanwhile, another Baltic country, Estonia, summoned the Russian ambassador on Tuesday to protest a violation of its national airspace by a Russian helicopter on June 18. find out more . There was no immediate Russian comment.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, traveled to Kaliningrad to chair a meeting on security. He said Lithuania’s actions showed Russia could not trust the West, which he said had broken written agreements on Kaliningrad.
“Appropriate measures” have been drawn up in response, Patrushev told the official RIA news agency, and without giving further details, “their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the Lithuanian population”.
Moscow summoned EU envoy Markus Ederer to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. EU spokesman Peter Stano said Ederer asked the Russians at the meeting “to refrain from escalation and rhetoric.”
The standoff creates a new source of confrontation on the Baltic, a region already poised for a security overhaul that would hamper Russia’s sea power as Sweden and Finland apply to join NATO and place nearly the entire coast in alliance territory.
The EU sought to deflect responsibility from Lithuania, claiming the policy was a collective action by the bloc.
In a symbolic move, Ukraine is expected to become an official candidate for European Union membership on Thursday, EU diplomats said.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland became the latest international dignitary to visit Ukraine, on Tuesday affirming Washington’s commitment to identify, arrest and prosecute those implicated in war crimes during the Russian invasion. Read more
In some of the bloodiest fighting seen in Europe since World War II, Russia has made slow progress in Donbass since April in a conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
Some of the fighting crossed the Siverskyi Donets River which meanders through the Donbass, with Russian forces mainly on the eastern bank and Ukrainian forces mainly on the west.
But Ukrainian troops – and around 500 civilians – are reportedly still holding out at a chemical plant in the eastern bank town of Sievierodonetsk, despite weeks of heavy shelling.
Luhansk provincial governor Serhiy Gaidai confirmed that Toshkivka, a settlement on the western bank further south, was now controlled by Russian forces. This could bolster Moscow’s hopes of cutting off Lysychansk from Ukrainian-held territory.
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia for the so-called pro-Moscow Lugansk People’s Republic, said forces were “moving south towards Lysychansk” with firefights breaking out in a number of towns.
Separately, at least 15 civilians were killed in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region by Russian shelling, the regional governor said in an online post. Read more
The Russian Defense Ministry said its missiles hit an airfield near the port of Odessa in response to a Ukrainian attack on gas production platforms in the Black Sea.
Reuters could not independently verify either report.
(This story has been reclassified to correct a typo in paragraph 7.)
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Peter Graff, Gareth Jones and Grant McCool; Editing by Nick Macfie, Mark Heinrich and Aurora Ellis
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