Lithuania expels Russian ambassador over civilian deaths near Kyiv

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April 4 (Reuters) - Lithuania is expelling the Russian ambassador to the Baltic country after Ukraine accused Russian forces of killing civilians in the town of Bucha, the Lithuanian foreign ministry said on Monday.

Global outrage spread on Monday at civilian killings in north Ukraine where a mass grave and tied bodies shot at close range were found in Bucha, a town taken back from Russian troops. read more

The Kremlin categorically denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians, including in the town, where it said the graves and corpses had been staged by Ukraine to tarnish Russia. read more

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Russia's ambassador to Lithuania "will have to leave the country", the Lithuanian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Lithuania stands in full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, who are victims of Russia's unprecedented aggression," Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a statement.

"The war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine will not be forgotten," he added.

Lithuania also said it would close Russia's consulate in the port city of Klaipeda and said its envoy to Moscow "would return in the near future".

Meanwhile, neighbouring Latvia said it would take steps regarding its own diplomatic ties with Russia, without giving specifics.

"Taking into account the crimes committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, Latvia will tighten diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation," Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics tweeted. "Specific decisions will be notified once internal procedures have been completed."

Ukrainian authorities said they had found 421 civilian casualties near Kyiv by Sunday and were investigating possible war crimes in Bucha, a description also used by U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and, in reference to Russia's broader offensive, by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Reporting by Gwladys Fouche and Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Alex Richardson

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