Russia decries US’ diplomatic ‘blockade’ bid

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Moscow’s ambassador tells of threats, with operations at missions hampered

Russia’s ambassador to the United States has accused Washington of “blockading” Russian diplomatic missions amid increasingly strained relations between the two countries as the conflict in Ukraine drags on.

The accusation from Ambassador Anatoly Antonov came as the US secretaries of state and defense visited Kyiv, where they pledged more military assistance for Ukraine.

“In effect, the embassy is under a blockade by US government agencies,” Antonov told Russian state television on Monday.

Antonov said the Russian embassy has been receiving threatening phone calls and letters and, at one point, staff had been prevented from exiting the premises in Washington.

He said the Bank of America had blocked the accounts of Russia’s consulates general in Houston and New York.

Russia and the US have engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats in recent years, following accusations of interference in the 2016 US presidential election and the tensions surrounding the conflict in Ukraine.

Around 170 diplomats and staff remain at the Russian embassy in Washington, two dozen of whom are expected to depart by late June.

In their visit on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin showed their support for the government in Kyiv, making the first high-level visit by US officials since Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine two months ago.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky met with the two US officials. “Maybe they can help,” Arestovych said. “They wouldn’t come here, if they weren’t ready to give[weapons].”

During their visit, the two officials said Washington will allocate $713 million in military aid for Ukraine and 15 other European countries, The Associated Press reported. Of that amount, more than $322 million will go to Ukraine while the rest will be divided among the countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

While the details surrounding the visit had been kept under wraps, Zelensky tweeted later on Sunday that the “Ukraine-US friendship and partnership are stronger than ever!”

In response to the visit, Russia warned the US against sending more arms to Ukraine, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington told Russian state television.

Weapons pouring in

“We stressed the unacceptability of this situation when the United States of America pours weapons into Ukraine, and we demanded an end to this practice,” Antonov said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel.

In developments on the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said the Russian military has unleashed a series of strikes on the country’s railways.

The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyy, said a Russian missile hit a railway facility in Krasne, about 40 kilometers east of Lviv, early on Monday. The airstrike sparked a fire.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said five rail facilities in central and western Ukraine had been hit by the Russian strikes. He said the attacks delayed at least 16 passenger trains.

There was no immediate information on the extent of the damage from the strikes.

Earlier on Monday, a fire erupted at a Russian oil depot near the Ukrainian border.

Social media accounts based in Russia’s Bryansk region shared footage of what they described as two explosions and a fire at the Transneft-Druzhba depot.

The state-run oil export company’s subsidiary runs one of the world’s longest oil pipelines, from Russia to Europe.

The Bryansk region was among several border regions to declare an elevated “terror” threat level earlier this month.

-The Daily Mail-China Daily News Exchange Item