The Kremlin has threatened Lithuania after EU-sanctioned goods were blocked from reaching the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, fuelling fears of NATO being dragged into the war.
Moscow warned of ‘very tough actions’ against the Western security alliance member after deliveries of coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology were stopped from entering the Russian territory.
The Lithuanian chargé d’affaires in Moscow was told that unless cargo transit was resumed in the near future, Russia reserves the right to act to protect its national interests.
The Russian foreign ministry said: ‘We consider provocative measures of the Lithuanian side which violate Lithuania’s international legal obligations, primarily the 2002 Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the European Union on transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation, to be openly hostile.’
Loyalist senator Andrey Klimov warned it was ‘direct aggression against Russia, literally forcing us to immediately resort to proper self-defence’.
Vladimir Putin ‘s allies have threatened Lithuania after the NATO country blocked EU-sanctioned goods from reaching the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad
A Russian customs officer works at a commercial port in the Baltic Sea town of Baltiysk in the Kaliningrad region (file image)
Smoke and flame rise after a military strike on a compound of Severodonetsk’s Azot Chemical Plant in Ukraine
The head of the parliamentary sovereignty protection commission, he vowed that Russia would solve the blockade ‘in ANY way we choose’.
Any direct Russian attack on alliance member state Lithuania would be seen as an act of war against NATO and could spark a world war.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said his country was simply implementing sanctions imposed by the EU.
He said the measures implemented were taken after ‘consultation with the European Commission and under its guidelines.’
‘Sanctioned goods (will) no longer be allowed to transit Lithuanian territory,’ Landsbergis added.
The foreign ministry emphasised it has not imposed ‘unilateral, individual or additional’ restrictions.
But Russia disagrees, with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: ‘This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything.’
He warned: ‘We consider this illegal. The situation is more than serious… we need a serious in-depth analysis in order to work out our response.’
Konstantin Kosachyov, senate deputy speaker, claimed Lithuania was flouting international law in banning goods reaching Lithuania from Russia via Belarus.
The Kaliningrad exclave, home to some 430,000 people, is surrounded by Lithuania and Poland, another EU country, to the south and isolated from the rest of Russia. Trains with goods for Kaliningrad travel via Belarus and Lithuania.
There’s no transit through Poland. Russia can still supply the exclave by sea, without falling foul of EU sanctions.
Russian state TV reporter Grigory Yemelyanov, from Channel 1, warned over footage of blocked trains: ‘The attempt to isolate the region is – from the point of view of international law – in fact a casus belli, a term meaning a formal reason to declare war.’
Loyalist senator Andrey Klimov (left) warned it was ‘direct aggression against Russia, literally forcing us to immediately resort to proper self-defence’, while Konstantin Kosachyov (right), senate deputy speaker, claimed Lithuania was flouting international law
A couple walk past a building destroyed by attacks in Chernihiv, Ukraine, yesterday amid fears of an escalation of the conflict
Another senator Andrey Klishas stated: ‘Lithuania’s attempt to establish a virtual blockade of the Kaliningrad region is a violation of Russia’s sovereignty over this region and may be the basis for very tough and absolutely legal actions on the part of Russia.’
Putin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky warned in The Financial Times that the Kremlin leader’s ‘next step’ would be an ‘air blockade’ of Lithuania.
‘It will allow Russian aviation to fly right through between Russia and Kaliningrad. Then Nato will face a question of what to do.’
Former Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak – a TV presenter – warned: ‘After Lithuania banned the transit of sanctioned goods to the Kaliningrad region through its territory, Russian politicians and the media have started talking …the basis for declaring war.’
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: ‘Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania. Moscow has only itself to blame for the consequences of its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.’
Kremlin henchmen were also warning of the threat of war in Kazakhstan after Putin was ‘humiliated’ by Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev when they shared a platform together on Friday at Russia’s major economic summit in St Petersburg.
Tokayev snubbed Putin by refusing to recognise as independent states the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.
Kremlin henchmen were also warning of the threat of war in Kazakhstan after Putin was ‘humiliated’ by Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, they claim (pictured together)
One account said Putin was ‘literally furious’ and felt humiliated. He was ready for ‘revenge’.
Pro-Putin MP Konstantin Zatulin warned of ‘Ukraine-like measures’ from Russia in Kazakhstan.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov warned Kazakhstan: ‘You’ve got to stand with Russia and show your position, and not be scared of US and EU sanctions.’
Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet states were ‘all silent, fearing the sanctions of America or Europe’.
An oil exporting terminal in Kazakhstan had been disrupted by Russia, according to reports.
In another report General SVR channel claimed Putin has not ruled out a major mobilisation of half a million men in five regions of western Russia close to Ukraine.
This could happen if Ukraine hit civilian and military facilities on a continued basis.
The regions mentioned were Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh and Rostov.
Ukrainian reports said that Putin is seeking to pressure Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko into opening a second front by invading Volyn, Rivne and Kyiv regions.
Firefighters work at the site of fire after Russian shelling in Mykolaiv in Ukraine this weekend after the latest bombardment
Elsewhere today, new footage shows Ukrainian troops obliterating a Russian tank and two infantry fighting vehicles using British M777 howitzers.
Aerial video purports to show the 81st Airmobile Brigade using the long-range weapons to target the vehicles.
The Command of the Assault Troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said: ‘Gunners of the 81st Brigade of the DShV [Ukrainian Air Assault Forces] destroyed one tank and two infantry fighting vehicles of the Russian invaders.
‘The video shows the successful work of artillery soldiers of the 81st Airmobile Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who, using British M777 155-mm field howitzers, destroyed equipment and manpower of the racists.
‘In particular, one tank and two infantry fighting vehicles of the Russian occupiers – along with their crews – were turned into scrap metal. Death to the Russian occupiers! DShV – Always First! Glory to Ukraine!’
It is the latest blow to Russian forces who have suffered heavy losses to personnel and military hardware in their costly four-month invasion.
Ukraine claims Russia has lost 33,800 personnel, 1,477 tanks, 3,588 armoured combat vehicles, 749 artillery units, 235 multiple launch rocket systems, 98 air defence systems, 216 warplanes, 181 helicopters, 601 drones, 130 cruise missiles, 14 warships, 2,527 motor vehicles and fuel tankers, and 55 units of special equipment.
On the battlefield, Russian forces are trying to take complete control of the eastern Donbas region, parts of which were already held by Russian-backed separatists before the February 24 invasion.
It comes as Ukraine is nervously awaiting a historic decision from the EU on its bid to become a member state, with Volodymyr Zelesnky fearing it could lead to an increase in Russian ‘hostile activity’ this week.
Ukrainian troops have shelled a Russian tank and two infantry fighting vehicles using British M777 howitzers which blew up the Kremlin machinery into a huge fireball
Aerial footage purports to show members of Ukraine’s 81st Airmobile Brigade using the long-range weapons to target the vehicles
The Command of the Assault Troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Kyiv’s forces had reduced Russian armoured vehicles to ‘scrap metal’ following the attack
The destruction is the latest blow to Russian forces who have suffered heavy losses to personnel and military hardware in their costly four-month invasion
Footage purporting to show Russian tanks being destroyed appeared as Ukraine is nervously awaiting a historic decision from the EU on its bid to become a member state, with Volodymyr Zelesnky fearing it could lead to an increase in Russian ‘hostile activity’ this week
Separate footage also purports to show the moment Ukrainian troops shelled a Russian tank and two infantry fighting vehicles using British M777 howitzers which blew up the Kremlin machinery into a huge fireball
Russia becomes China’s biggest oil supplier after Beijing increased imports by 55 per cent to capitalise on low prices
Russia has become China’s largest oil supplier after slashing its prices due to Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
It displaced Saudi Arabia as China’s biggest provider after a 55 per cent increase over the past year allowed the Chinese state to capitalise on low prices brought about by western countries refusing to buy oil from Russia.
Russian oil exports to China totalled nearly 8.42million tonnes in the month of May, nudging out Saudi Arabia which exported 7.82million tonnes to China.
Chinese state giants Sinopec and Zhenhua Oil have increased their purchases of Russian crude in recent months, refining the oil and selling it on.
Discounts of up to 30 per cent have undermined western sanctions and sparked fears that Russia will continue to find funding for its war in Ukraine.
Last week, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air think tank said Russia earned almost $100bn in revenue from fossil fuel exports in the first 100 days of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The European Union made up 61 per cent of these imports, worth approximately $59bn.
Oil prices have risen by more than 60 per cent over the past 12 months, topping $112 a barrel for international benchmark crude as of Monday.
A prime target of Moscow’s eastern assault is the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk.
Russia said on Sunday it had seized Metyolkine, a village on the outskirts, and Russian state news agency TASS reported that many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there.
Ukraine’s military said Russia had ‘partial success’ in the area.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian TV that a Russian attack on Toshkivka, 20 miles south of Sievierodonetsk, also ‘had a degree of success.’
In Sievierodonetsk itself, a city of 100,000 before the war, Gaidai said Russia controlled ‘the main part’ but not the entire town after intense fighting. Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.
Both Russia and Ukraine have continued heavy bombardment around Sievierodonetsk ‘with little change to the front line’, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Sunday.
In Sievierodonetsk’s twin city of Lysychansk, residential buildings and private houses had been destroyed by Russian shelling, Gaidai said. ‘People are dying on the streets and in bomb shelters,’ he added.
He later said 19 people had been evacuated on Sunday. ‘We are managing to bring in humanitarian aid and evacuate people as best we can,’ Gaidai said.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, wrote in a note that ‘Russian forces will likely be able to seize Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area.’
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Ukraine conflict could last for years and urged Western governments to continue sending state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.
‘We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,’ Stoltenberg was quoted as saying.
Russia has said it launched what it calls a ‘special military operation’ to disarm its neighbour and protect Russian speakers there from dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and its allies dismiss that as a baseless pretext for a war of aggression.
The British military assessment said morale for Ukrainian and Russian combat units in the Donbas was likely ‘variable.’
‘Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks, however, Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled. Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur,’ the British Ministry of Defence said on Twitter.
Ukrainian soldiers travel down a road near Druzhkivka as Russian forces continue to concentrate their firepower on the Donbas
A family takes a Sunday walk through a neighborhood that was recently damaged by a Russian missile strike
A man removes debris at a local market following recent shelling in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donetsk
Smoke rises after Russian shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on Saturday in another round of bombardment
In Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, northwest of Luhansk, Russia’s defence ministry said its Iskander missiles had destroyed weaponry recently supplied by Western countries.
Russian forces were trying to approach Kharkiv, which experienced intense shelling earlier in the war, and turn it into a ‘frontline city’, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.
In southern Ukraine, Western weaponry had helped Ukrainian forces advance six miles towards Russian-occupied Melitopol, its mayor said in a video posted on Telegram from outside the city.
An EU decision in favor of Kyiv’s ultimate membership would put Ukraine on track to realise an aspiration that would have been out of reach for the former Soviet republic before the Russian invasion.
‘Whole generations fought for a chance to escape from the prison of the Soviet Union and, like a free bird, to fly to European civilisation,’ the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, said in a statement.
President Zelensky said there had been ‘few such fateful decisions for Ukraine’ as the one it expects from the EU this week.
‘Only a positive decision is in the interests of the whole of Europe,’ he said in his evening address Sunday.
‘Obviously, we expect Russia to intensify hostile activity this week… We are preparing. We are ready,’ he continued.
On Friday, Brussels backed Kyiv’s bid for EU candidate status after the heads of the bloc’s biggest members – France, Germany and Italy – paid a visit to the Ukrainian capital.
Ukraine could join the list of countries vying for membership as early as this week, when member state leaders meet at a Brussels summit.
But officials and leaders in the bloc caution that, even with candidacy status, membership could take years.