Ukraine: Moscow raises its tone against Vilnius and progresses in the east

Two days before the summit of European Union leaders called upon to decide on granting Ukraine the status of candidate country for the European club that kyiv is crying out for, the French Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune , whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, said that a “total consensus“had emerged within the Twenty-Seven during a meeting with his counterparts in Luxembourg, to accede to this request.

Calling it “hostile acts“the restrictions imposed by the Lithuanian authorities on the transit by rail of goods affected by European sanctions in the direction of Kaliningrad, Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, declared, during a visit to this Russian enclave on the Baltic, that “appropriate measures“would”adopted soon“and that they would have”serious negative consequences for the people of Lithuania“.

As Russian troops step up their advance in Donbass in eastern Ukraine, a US official announced in Washington that US Justice Minister Merrick Garland was on a surprise visit to kyiv, where he must discuss with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Iryna Venediktova, the “U.S. and international efforts to help Ukraine identify, apprehend, and prosecute those implicated in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine“.

– “Epicenter of Confrontation“-

In eastern Ukraine, the Russians “fully control“The village of Tochkivka on the front line, a few kilometers from Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk where the fighting is raging, recognized the head of the Severodonetsk district, Roman Vlasenko.

The entire Lugansk region is now the epicenter of the confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian armies“, added Mr. Vlasenko, who was speaking on Ukrainian television.

This region is almost completely controlled by forces from Moscow. Only the pocket of Ukrainian resistance around Lyssytchansk and Severodonetsk still escapes the control of the Russian army.

According to Mr. Vlasenko, “fighting rages around the industrial area” from Severodonetsk, where, according to the local authorities, 568 people, including 38 children – mainly employees and their families – are now taking refuge inside the Azot factory.

The factory is emblematic of this industrial city which had around 100,000 inhabitants before the war. The capture of the city by Moscow would be an important step towards the conquest of the entirety of Donbass, a mainly Russian-speaking region partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

– “Catastrophic destruction“-

The governor of the Lugansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï, reported on his side of “catastrophic destruction in Lysychansk“, a twin town separated from Severodonetsk by the Donets, an impassable river since the bridges were destroyed there.

Suffering from daily bombardments, the region has for several weeks been the scene of violent artillery battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the Ukrainian military to “hold“, judging that the outcome of the war would depend on its resistance and its ability to curb the Russian army and inflict losses on it.

Saying “appreciate the effort” from Berlin to militarily assist kyiv, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiï Reznikov announced the receipt of German Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled artillery guns, after weeks of negotiations by Ukraine with its Western allies to receive “powerful weapons“capable of repelling Russian attacks.

Several cities in Donbass still under the control of kyiv are preparing for a new advance by Russian troops, such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, east of Severodonetsk. “The front has come closer in recent weeks, up to 15-20 kilometers“, thus explained to AFP Vadym Lyakh, mayor of Sloviansk, who hopes for the rapid arrival of “new weapons” which the Ukrainian army needs.

So far, everything is fine here, but it is very hard psychologically when you see on television what is happening in other cities“, says Svitlana, 48, a butcher at the Kramatorsk market.

On the military level, again, Russia claimed to have repelled a “crazy woman“attempt by kyiv forces to retake Serpents’ Island, a symbolic and strategic territory conquered by Moscow in the Black Sea at the start of its offensive in Ukraine, launched on February 24.

– “Courage and professionalism“-

We are proud that[en Ukraine]our fighters act with courage, professionalism, like real heroes“, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during an address in the Kremlin to young graduates of Russian military academies and the highest army officials.

Mr Putin also judged “sure“that the sanctions that hit Russia would be”overcome“.

In Moscow, a court on Tuesday began the trial of a municipal elected official, Alexei Gorinov, accused of “dissemination of misleading information” after criticizing the offensive in Ukraine.

This charge could earn him 10 years in prison, and the human rights organization Amnesty International has called for his immediate release, denouncing “a high profile trial“aiming to send a”dissuasive message“.

In southern Ukraine, “specialists from the transmission units of the Russian Armed Forces connected and reconfigured to broadcast Russian channels the last of seven television transmitters in the Kherson region“, conquered by Moscow from the first days of the war, according to a press release from the Russian Ministry of Defense.

– Attachment –

According to the text, one million inhabitants of the region now have access “free” to the main Russian channels, in particular those of the public audiovisual group VGTRK, which actively relays the Kremlin line.

Since the region came under the control of Moscow, the occupying forces have been carrying out a policy of Russification of the territories there: the Russian currency, the rouble, has been introduced and Russian passports are beginning to be distributed.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, one of the new pro-Russian officials of the Kherson region, Kirill Stremoussov, claimed that this territory could be attached to Russia, “by referendum“, “before the end of the year“.

Ukraine’s police chief for kyiv province said on television that the bodies of 1,333 Ukrainian civilians he said were killed by Russian forces had been found as of Tuesday, 213 of whom remain unidentified. Since Russian forces withdrew from the area, 300 people remain missing, he added.

According to Madrid, a Spaniard, who left to fight Russian troops in Ukraine, died in this country on Saturday.

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