Monday, September 5 2016 20:50 EEST
Lithuania supplied Ukrainian troops with 150 tons of ammunition
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Lithuania sends ammunition to Ukraine to fight Russia-backed separatists

Lithuania has supplied Ukrainian troops fighting Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country with 150 tons of ammunition, RFE/RL reports.

Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said on September 3 that it was Lithuania’s duty to help a 'devoted friend who was attacked by Russia.'

This will mark the second time Vilnius has sent military aid to Ukraine since it began fighting the separatists after Moscow illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

'We responded to the Ukrainian request and hope it will make their life easier,' Olekas told AFP on September 3.

Russia’s interference in Ukraine has increased concerns in Lithuania, which was under Moscow’s thumb until the disintegration of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago. Now Lithuania is a member of the European Union and NATO.

'Lithuania has consistently helped Ukraine in its fight for territorial integrity and the defense of its values, and we would like to keep helping as much as we can,' Olekas told Reuters.

About 150 tons of ammunition was handed over to Ukraine, mostly 5.45-caliber cartridges for Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles that the Lithuanian Army no longer uses, a spokesman for the country's Joint Chiefs of Staff told Reuters.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius recently called for EU sanctions on Russia over its backing of separatists in Ukraine to remain in place until situation on the ground improves, dismissing calls from the EU's rotating president, Slovakia, for them to be lifted.

Last year, Lithuania rejected Moscow’s protests that its previous supply of lethal weaponry to Ukraine violated international arms-trade commitments.

Lithuania has invited wounded Ukrainian soldiers for treatment in its hospitals and sent military instructors to the country.

On September 2, European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said a cease-fire was holding in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and separatists has killed more than 9,500 people since April 2014.

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