Russia has threatened to punish Lithuania with measures that would have a “serious negative effect” for blocking some rail transports to Kaliningrad, the Baltic Sea enclave, the latest dispute over sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine.
Within Ukraine, Russian forces and their separatist proxies made further progress eastwards towards Lysychansk, now Ukraine’s main bastion in the area of the heaviest fighting in the eastern Donbas area that Russia claims for the separatists.
Ukraine’s forces and weapons, dwarfed by Russia’s, have begged its allies to send more and better artillery.
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov announced the arrival of powerful German self-propelled howitzers on Tuesday.
Russia blames foreign sanctions and has begun pumping reduced gas volumes through Ukraine to Europe.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the reduced flows amounted to an economic attack on Germany that “must not succeed”.
Diplomatic attention is focused on the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, a port on the Baltic Sea and the surrounding countryside home to nearly a million Russians, linked to the rest of Russia by a rail link via the European Union and NATO member Lithuania.
Lithuania has closed the route for the transport of steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is obliged to do under EU sanctions that came into effect on Saturday.
Russian officials say other basic goods have also been blocked.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, visited the enclave on Tuesday to chair a security meeting.
He said Lithuania’s actions showed that Russia could not trust the EU, which he said had broken written agreements on Kaliningrad.
“Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions,” Patrushev said through the state news agency RIA.
“Appropriate measures” have been worked out, and “their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania,” he said without elaborating.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said it was “ironic” to hear Russia complain about alleged violations of international law, as it “may have violated every international treaty”.
Russia summoned EU envoy Markus Ederer to Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday.
EU spokesman Peter Stano said Ederer asked Russian officials at the meeting “to refrain from escalating steps and rhetoric”.
The standoff creates a new source of confrontation in the Baltic Sea, a region already poised for a security overhaul that would curtail Russian naval forces as Sweden and Finland apply to join NATO and move almost the entire coast into alliance territory. Place.
The EU tried to shift responsibility from Lithuania, saying the policy was a collective action by the bloc.
Diplomats said that Ukraine will officially become a candidate for EU membership on Thursday in a symbolic but morally stimulating decision.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland became the last international dignitary to visit Ukraine, confirming a US commitment on Tuesday to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in war crimes during the Russian invasion.
Russia has made slow progress in the Donbas since April, killing thousands of soldiers on both sides.
Some fighting has spanned the Siverskyi Donets River, which meanders through the Donbas, with Russian troops on the east bank and Ukrainian soldiers on the west bank.
But Ukrainian troops — and an estimated 500 civilians — are still holding out at a chemical plant in the east bank town of Sievierodonetsk, despite weeks of heavy bombing.
The governor of Luhansk province, Serhiy Gaidai, confirmed that Toshkivka, a settlement on the western bank further south, had fallen into Russian hands.
This could bolster Russia’s hopes of cutting Lysychansk off from Ukraine-occupied territory.
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said troops are “moving from the south to Lysychansk” with firefights in several cities.
“The next few hours should bring significant changes to the balance of power in the area,” he told Telegram.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces had captured several other settlements south of Lysychansk.
Separately, police in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the north near the border with Russia, said five people were killed and 11 injured on Tuesday when Russian missiles hit an industrial building.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry said its missiles hit an airport nearOdesaa in response to a Ukrainian attack on gas production platforms in the Black Sea.
Reuters was unable to independently verify either report.