Kyiv | Ukraine on Monday accused Russia of ramping up its deadly bombardment in the east, where its troops are resisting fiercely, and Moscow said it beat back oil platforms in the Black Sea off Crimea, which were annexed in 2014.
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At the same time, on the cusp of what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described as a “historic” week with a summit in Brussels that could give Kyiv candidate status for EU membership, tensions further north rose sharply between Russia and Lithuania , which restricted the transit of Russian cargo by rail to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
Russia condemned a “hostile” act. If the transit “is not fully restored, Russia reserves the right to defend its national interests,” the Russian Foreign Ministry threatened. The Kremlin described the situation as “more than serious”.
Moscow has not specified the nature of its threat, but Kaliningrad, the former Prussian city of Koenigsberg annexed in 1945 that has become a Russian enclave in the European Union, is a strategic beachhead for the Russians, who have installed missiles there missiles aimed at the capable of carrying out nuclear strikes in western Europe and anchoring their military fleets there.
Lithuania, a former Soviet republic with strained relations with Moscow, is not only a member of the EU but also of NATO, which has troops stationed there.
“We (…) strongly support our Lithuanian friends,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba wrote on Twitter.
In Ukraine, the presidency initially indicated Monday morning that Russian bombing has increased in the Kharkiv region (northeast), the second city in the country to resist pressure from Russian forces since the offensive began on February 24.
In the Donetsk region (east), the intensity of shelling “is increasing along the entire front line,” the presidency added, reporting one dead and seven wounded, including a child
In Severodonetsk, “the Russians control most of the residential areas.” But “if we talk about the whole city, more than a third of the city remains controlled by our armed forces,” said local chief executive Oleksandr Striouk.
Fighting has raged around this important metropolitan area to gain control of the entire Donbass, the industrial basin in the east of the country that has been partially controlled by Moscow-backed pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
Regional Governor Sergei Gaidai confirmed on television the fall of the village of Metolkine on the south-eastern outskirts of Severodonetsk announced by the Russian Defense Minister on Sunday.
“We are ready,” the Ukrainian army “is holding itself on the eve of a crucial week,” President Zelenskyy said in his daily video address on Sunday evening, but stressed that the armed forces had suffered “significant losses” against Russian firepower, artillery and aviation in the trench warfare the last few weeks.
For their part, the Russians accuse the Ukrainians of attacking oil rigs at their gas and oil complex off the coast of Crimea, leaving several people injured and missing.
“This morning the enemy attacked the Chernomorneftegaz oil rigs. I’m in contact with our colleagues from the Defense Ministry and (from the special services) the FSB, we’re trying to save people,” Governor Sergei Aksionov, installed by Moscow after the annexation of the peninsula in 2014, said by telegram.
According to him, there were a total of 109 people on three platforms, of whom 21 were evacuated.
He states that it was the first platform that was hit the hardest: “There were 12 people on it, five of them were injured, the search for the others continues.”
The Ukrainian army has repeatedly attacked Russian ships in the Black Sea with cruise missiles launched from the coast, including the cruiser Moskva (Moscow), the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which was sunk in mid-April.
However, Russia retains control of this area of the Black Sea, which also means that the export of millions of tons of grain, of which Ukraine is one of the world’s main producers, is prevented by cargo ships.
The European Union on Monday, through the voice of its chief diplomat Josep Borrell, accused Moscow of committing “a genuine war crime” by blocking these exports “when the rest of the world’s population is starving.”
“Russia must stop playing with world hunger,” said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
The federal government is organizing an international conference on Friday in Berlin on the food crisis linked to this war, notably in the presence of the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken, the German executive said on Monday.
Farewell to the “Russian World”
The Sunday in the German daily newspaper estimated that this war could last “for years”. picture NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Western countries to support Kyiv in the long term.
Switzerland, which is hosting the first reconstruction conference for Ukraine on July 4th and 5th, expects a “long and complex” reconstruction that must be accompanied by reforms.
“The war is still going on, but we also know that the time will come for a lengthy and complex reconstruction,” declared Federal President Ignazio Cassis during the presentation of the Lugano Conference.
Finally, amid the Russian invasion and on the eve of the EU summit that must decide whether or not to grant it candidate status, the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, on Monday ratified the Istanbul Convention, the first international treaty to be formalized legally binding standards to combat gender-based violence.
“A historic event that will bring us even faster to the EU,” applauded Rada First Vice-President Oleksandr Korniyenko on Twitter.
“President Volodymyr Zelensky and all the deputies who voted for ratification have cut another cord that had anchored Ukraine to the + Russian world +,” in turn welcomed Serguiï Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN.