Officials in Moscow have previously boasted the missiles – which are capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads and decoys – could strike Britain in just “200 seconds”.
Mr Putin’s remarks came as his ally Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s security council, threatened that Lithuania’s population would face “serious negative” consequences if Vilnius continues to block Russian goods from travelling by rail to Kaliningrad, an enclave held by Moscow since 1945.
The EU has told Russia that Lithuania is not acting alone, with Markus Ederer, the bloc’s ambassador in Moscow, saying Vilnius was simply “implementing EU sanctions”.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Moscow is likely to increase its attacks in the build-up to an EU summit on Thursday and Friday.
Lithuanians near Kaliningrad put faith in Nato after Russia’s threats
Russia’s threat to punish Lithuania over blocked rail shipments to Moscow’s enclave of Kaliningrad jangled nerves on Tuesday for residents living just across the border who put faith in Nato membership to thwart any potential military action.
Lithuania has shut the route for transport of steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is required to do under EU sanctions that took effect on Saturday, raising the ire of Russian officials who threatened a “serious negative impact.”
Insurance worker Vitalijus Sidiskis, 59, said that while he believed it was difficult to predict what Russia might do, he would remain calm because of Lithuania’s membership in the European Union and Nato.
“Nothing bad will happen … because Lithuania is in Nato and in the European Union,” he told Reuters. “I don’t believe that they will be aggressively attacking us.”
Other residents in the border town of nearly 6,000 said the threats from Russia had overshadowed other problems, such as sky-high inflation that has hit the pocketbooks of many Lithuanians.
“We work nearby to the border and the shooting and the maneuvers are a bit worrying,” Galina Mateikuniene, a 52-year-old seamstress said. “We are probably more afraid of war, of an invasion. The economy is the economy.”
Draft text points to EU candidacy for Ukraine and Moldova, report suggests
According to the Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman, a draft conclusion text of the looming EU summit states: “The European Council has decided to grant the status of candidate country to Ukraine and to the Republic of Moldova.”
EU leaders in Brussels are expected to sign off on last week’s recommendation by the European Commission that Ukraine be granted candidate status, with three diplomats telling Reuters on Tuesday that after several days of internal EU discussions no opposition among the 27 member states had surfaced.
A French presidential official, whose country heads the EU until the end of June, told reporters in a briefing he was confident none of the 27 would block candidacy status for Ukraine and Moldova.
“We are forging consensus. At this moment I can’t say all 27 are agreed but there is reasonable hope to quickly get an agreement on Ukraine and Moldova at the EU Council,” they said.
Watch: Ukraine visa scheme ‘a big problem’, says engineer after his family flee to UK
A Ukrainian engineer who has helped dozens of refugees get to the UK after his own close family made it out of Mariupol says the visa system remains “shambolic” and is getting worse, my colleague Oliver Browning reports.
Anton Ievsiushkin, 38, contrasted the “amazing” help his sister, niece, mother and grandmother have had from the British public with the government scheme.
He believes the visa challenges are made to discourage refugees from applying.
Mr Ievsiushkin began helping families settle in the UK after his twin sister Anastasiia and her now five-month-old daughter fled from Mariupol in March.
Canada seeking pathway to enable German gas flow amid Russian sanctions
Ottawa is evaluating options to help restore German gas supplies as a crucial Nord Stream 1 pipeline part is stranded in Canada due to Russian sanctions, Canada’s natural resources minister has said.
Gazprom’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline has been forced to reduce capacity as it waits for the turbine, which is being serviced in Canada. Sanctions on Russia make it impossible for German equipment supplier Siemens Energy to receive the pipeline part, the company said last week.
“We want to respect the sanctions because the sanctions were put into place for a reason,” resources minister Jonathan Wilkinson told Bloomberg. “That being said, the intent of the sanctions was never to cause significant pain to Germany, which is one of our closest friends and allies. So we are very seized with this issue.”
“We are talking to Germany, trying to find a pathway through which we can actually enable the flow of gas,” Mr Wilkinson said. “There may be different options that we can look at.”
Russia has said the pipeline is delivering less gas to Europe due to the slow return of Siemens-made equipment from Canada. European leaders such as German chancellor Olaf Scholz have questioned whether the cut in flows is politically motivated rather than a technical issue.
A natural resources ministry spokesman confirmed the accuracy of the comments, saying they were in line with an official statement issued last week.
Ireland will ‘walk every step’ of Ukraine’s journey to EU
Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said he was “delighted” to speak with Voldomyr Zelensky ahead of a summit this week in which the EU will discuss Ukraine’s potential candidacy for ascension to the bloc.
Despite the European Commission’s endorsement, it is likely to take years or even decades to lead to EU membership for Ukraine.
Mr Martin, who said previously that the process to apply to join the EU is “complex and challenging”, has been a vocal advocate for Ukraine’s fast-tracked membership of the EU, and has used Ireland as an example of how a country can develop through EU membership.
“It requires considerable work on the part of the country looking to join,” he said. “Ireland is ready to walk every step of that journey with Ukraine, providing whatever support and encouragement we can along the way.”
Zelensky invites Irish premier to Ukraine
Volodymyr Zelensky has invited Irish premier Micheal Martin to visit Ukraine, after the two leaders shop ahead of a summit this week where leadrs will discuss Ukraine’s potential EU candidacy status.
The Ukrainian president said that he spoke to Mr Martin “on the eve of the historic” European Council meeting and thanked Ireland for its “active support of Ukraine’s European aspirations” and the status of a candidate for EU membership.
Mr Zelensky said he invited Mr Martin “to make the first visit to Ukraine in the history of bilateral relations”.
He has spoken to several EU leaders on Tuesday ahead of the summit, including Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who he also invited to visit Ukraine.
Estonia summons Russian ambassador over airspace breach
Estonia has summoned the Russian ambassador in response the violation of its national airspace by a Russian helicopter on Saturday, the country’s foreign ministry has said.
“Estonia considers this an extremely serious and regrettable incident that undoubtedly causes additional tensions and is completely unacceptable,” the ministry said, repeating calls for Russian troops to leave Ukraine.
Report from Siversk: Residents brace for the coming Russian storm
In his latest dispatch from the Donbas region, our defence and security editor Kim Sengupta reports:
The residents left in Siversk are bracing themselves for the coming storm. And there is plenty of evidence of the suffering already inflicted on the town. A destroyed school, used as a shelter, where five people died in a bombing. A row of houses damaged by a missile strike, which killed another three. The acrid smoke from a plant where agricultural seeds were set on fire by shelling.
There has been no gas, no electricity, and no water for a month. Aid runs are irregular because of artillery fire on the road, and the lack of internet and telephone coverage means that it is difficult to know when and where distributions will take place. The town’s hospital, without power and extremely short of medicine, has turned its basement into a shelter. Around half of the population of 11,000 has left the town, but others are determined to stick it out.
“We are not running like those rats: we are staying. This is our home, our country; this is Ukraine, not Russia. That’ll never change,” declares Iryna outside a block of burnt-out apartments. “They are trying to drive out everyone from here, [and to] kill those who stay. They are making this place empty of people.”
There are frequent explosions in the background as she speaks. Quite a few blocks have taken direct hits, and residents spend their time in bunkers under buildings, which have been divided into sleeping cells. They gather outside during the day, when there is a lull in the fighting, to socialise – eating food cooked over open fires, built using the wood from cut-down trees – and take turns to visit people who are too ill or infirm to leave their homes.
You can read his full dispatch here.
Alla Oleneik, a 67-year-old whose home in the frontline town of Siversk became uninhabitable after a missile strike, told The Independent: “We know the Russians are not far away. Lysychansk is close, Sievierodonetsk is just across the river. So we are not going to avoid the fighting here.”
“Putin wants the Donbas, we know that,” she added. “We heard there are leaders in Europe who want to end the war by Ukraine giving up this area to the Russians. But we are the ones who live here – and we are not prepared to just give up our land or become Russians. How can they expect us to accept them after the way they have behaved, killing and destroying?”
You can read more in Kim Sengupta’s latest dispatch from Ukraine:
Cyberattacks and information warfare in Ukraine are a ‘crystal ball’, Google executive says
A Google executive warned the UN Security Council today that cyberattacks, disinformation and other forms of information warfare being waged in Ukraine are a “crystal ball” for future problems elsewhere.
“States must find a way to turn the volume down and settle on some kind of deterrence doctrine for the cyber domain,” Jared Cohen said at a council meeting on hate speech, incitement and atrocities in Ukraine.
He argued that while tech companies have needed expertise, “there is no magical algorithm or single fix for this,” and finding a solution will take a lot of experimentation.
Mr Cohen heads Jigsaw, a part of Google that aims to build technology to combat disinformation, censorship and extremism online.
He said Ukraine “has been disproportionately targeted” by advanced cyberattacks since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding: “It is essentially our crystal ball for what is likely to come.”
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