Lithuania's top diplomat has said that removing Russian President Vladimir Putin from power is the only way to protect the West and its allies from future threats from Moscow, urging an even tougher stance than the US and many NATO allies have been willing to pursue since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In an interview with The Associated Press in Washington on Monday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Putin's annual Victory Day speech was underwhelming and that the gloomy faces of generals and others were signs of failing in the Ukraine war. Yet, he said a wounded Putin may be even more dangerous and that the only way to remove the threat is to remove him.
From our standpoint, up until the point the current regime is not in power, the countries surrounding it will be, to some extent, in danger. Not just Putin but the whole regime because, you know, one might change Putin and might change his inner circle but another Putin might rise into his place, Landsbergis said.
And so as long as a regime that intends to wage wars outside Russian territory is in place, the countries surrounding it are in danger, he said. And, if one thing was proven to those who doubted it after 2008 in Georgia in 2014 when the first war in Ukraine started, it is that Russia is an aggressive country. That's very clear.
Lithuania is one of the three Baltic states that among NATO allies are particularly concerned about possible Russian designs on forcefully returning them to Moscow's rule. Lithuanian officials, including Landsbergis have been especially outspoken about their fears but his overt calls for regime change go beyond what most NATO allies have been willing to express.
Bratislava (Slovakia): The first telephone call Jill Biden made from her black SUV after an unannounced meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart inside the embattled country was to her husband, President Joe Biden.
Biden and Olena Zelenska, who had not been seen in public since President Vladimir Putin sent Russia's military into her country nearly 11 weeks ago, had just spent about two hours together at a school in Uzhhorod in western Ukraine.
With her visit to the Ukraine war zone, the US first lady was able to act as a second pair of eyes and ears for the president, who so far has been unable to visit the country himself.
Sometimes the first lady is able to do things and get into places where the president can't, said Myra Gutin, author of The President's Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century.
Jill Biden wrapped up her four-day trip to Eastern Europe on Monday after meeting in Bratislava with Zuzana Caputova, Slovakia's first female president. Her trip over the border on Sunday to meet with Zelenska and refugees from elsewhere in Ukraine was a highpoint of the visit.
Seated across from Caputova, Jill Biden said she told her husband in their phone call just how much I saw the need to support the people of Ukraine and about the horrors and the brutality that the people I had met had experienced.
Berlin: The leaders of Germany and France welcomed the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't announce any steps to expand the war in Ukraine, including to other countries, in his speech marking the end of World War II.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters in Berlin that it important there had been no escalation, at least as far as the rhetoric is concerned in Putin's Victory Day speech. What actually happens in Ukraine is something we'll see in the next days and weeks.
His comments were echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who added that the goal of diplomatic efforts remains a cease-fire in Ukraine.
In effect, today was marked by no verbal escalation nor a geographic escalation nor an escalation in the use of arms he said. Is this sufficient for us? No.
We will remain concentrated on our only goal, do all to get a cease-fire and help Ukraine to negotiate under the terms it decides for itself, because we are on the side of sovereignty and Ukrainian territorial integrity, Macron said. No more, no less.
Bucharest: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during an official visit to non-NATO member Moldova on Monday that the consequences of Russia's war against Ukraine escalating are too frightening to contemplate.
Guterres, who arrived in Moldova's capital Chisinau on Monday, said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita, that the impact of Russia's war in neighbouring Ukraine is profound and far-reaching.
The UN chief's visit to Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, which has a population of about 2.6 million people, follows a series of unsettling incidents that have rocked Moldova's pro-Russia breakaway region of Transnistria, which has put officials in Chisinau on high alert.
In late April, three men launched grenades at the region's state security office, and two large broadcast antennas were downed a day later. On Friday, Police in Transnistria said explosive devices were dropped from a drone leaving 1-meter-deep craters near a village.
I am deeply concerned about the continuation and possible spread of the war Russia is waging in Ukraine, Guterres said, adding that Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity must not be threatened or undermined.
Transnistria, a small strip of land with a population of about 470,000, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova. Russia bases about 1,500 troops in the breakaway region, ostensibly as peacekeepers. No casualties were reported in the incidents.
Washington: The United States is suspending 25% import taxes on Ukraine's steel in a show of support for the country's beleaguered economy during the Russian invasion.
The Commerce Department said Monday that it would withdraw the tariffs for a year. Ukraine accounts for only about 1% of US steel exports.
Some of the country's largest steel communities have been among those hardest hit during the war, including the Mariupol mill that's the only part of the strategically important port city not under Russian control.
We can't just admire the fortitude and spirit of the Ukrainian people - we need to have their backs and support one of the most important industries to Ukraine's economic well-being," Commerce Secretary Gina M Raimondo said. For steel mills to continue as an economic lifeline for the people of Ukraine, they must be able to export their steel."
The steel levies were imposed in 2018 by the Trump administration, which deployed a little-used provision in US trade law to call foreign steel a threat to American national security. The move outraged US allies, and critics said they did little address the real cause of stress for US steel producers: massive overproduction by the Chinese, whose steel shipments to the US are already limited by other trade barriers.
The Biden administration has removed most of the tariffs on steel from the European Union, the United Kingdom and Japan, allowing their metals to come in duty-free up to a quota. No such quota applies to the Ukrainian imports in the move announced Monday.
Warsaw: Polish officials say the country is ready to increase its energy assistance to neighbouring Ukraine and provide steady deliveries.
Poland's government ministers made the declaration Monday during a Polish-Ukrainian Energy Forum attended also by other countries and by the International Energy Agency. Climate and Environment minister, Anna Moskwa, said a round-the clock effort is being set in motion to ensure energy security to Ukraine.
Poland has been supplying Ukraine with some energy and fuels ever since Russia's Feb 24 invasion. The level of the support is to be increased.
Ukraine's first deputy minister for the economy, Yulia Sviridenko, said the country urgently needs diesel fuel and gasoline because Russia's invading troops are destroying its fuels infrastructure, including a refinery.
Poland is in the process of cutting its dependence on Russian energy sources and increasing deliveries from other countries.
Brussels: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is travelling to Hungary in a bid to secure unanimity on the EU's executive arm's proposal to ban oil imports from Russia.
A spokesman for the European Commission said von der Leyen will meet with Hungary Prime minister Viktor Orban on Monday to discuss issues related to European security of energy supply.
Hungary has blocked progress in discussions to adopt the sixth EU package of sanctions targeting Russia for its war in Ukraine, and ambassadors from the 27 EU countries have so far failed to agree on the details of the new round of measures.
Von der Leyen has proposed having EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.
Hungary says it will not vote for the proposed sanctions, saying it would have the effect of an atomic bomb on its economy and would destroy its stable energy supply.
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