NewsWorldBreaking news and news from Russia's war in Ukraine

Breaking news and news from Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Having a neighbor like Russia down the street means 59-year-old Vytas Grudzinskas doesn’t get much rest. “I see the soldiers best at night,” he says, pointing to a green patch behind his neighbor’s garden. “They have a shooting range that they use there, behind that range. In the afternoon, you can hear the guns,” he says. Grudzinskas has his own weapon, a machine gun, which he keeps locked in a cupboard close at hand, though his guard dog, a Maltese terrier, might be less effective in battle. The small town of Kybartai, where Grudzinska lives, is located within NATO and the European Union, but also along one of the hottest borders in the world: the Suwalki corridor. This strip of land, about 100 kilometers wide, lies between the heavily fortified and nuclear-armed Baltic bun of Kaliningrad and its ally Belarus. The pass – considered by many analysts to be a weak point within NATO – is caught in a pincer between Kremlin troops. The fear is that if the Ukraine fell, Russia would advance through it next, possibly cutting off the Baltic states within days. The scars of the Soviet occupation are deep in this part of Europe. Tens of thousands of Lithuanians were forcibly deported to the gulags of Siberia and the Far North by the Soviets in the 1940s and 1950s. Almost 30,000 Lithuanian prisoners perished in the labor camps. “My father was posted to Sakhalin, in the far west of Russia, for 15 years,” says Grudzinskas. “He ate grass the first year to survive.” So when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Grudzinskas joined Lithuania’s century-old volunteer militia — the Riflemen — and took up arms in his own backyard.

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