Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs came out in favour of designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.

“The EU must consider Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. I reiterate a proposal to impose an EU tourist visa ban for Russian citizens,” he tweeted on Saturday, July 30th, in a post that also condemned the “brutal murder of Ukrainian POWs by Russian Armed Forces.” 

On Friday, July 29th, Ukrainian POWs were killed in a prison in Olenivka, in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine following shelling of the building. Ukraine’s military accused Russia of deliberately bombing the jail, while Russia’s Defence Ministry countered that Ukraine had struck the prison. The Donbas is the most heavily contested region of Ukraine at the moment. Over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky urged residents to evacuate the Donetsk region of the Donbas as Russia prepares an intense assault on the area. 

Rinkēvičs reiterated his social media statements during an interview with the news outlet Politico on Sunday, July 31.

“We see all the brutality of Russian forces that actually resemble … ISIS, who we have been always calling a terrorist organization [sic],” Rinkēvičs told Politico in a phone interview on Sunday. 

“Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said. “If we condemn countries like Iran, Russia is no different.” 

Rinkēvičs told Politico that the European Union needed to intensify its efforts to isolate Russia. Russian “society needs to feel it,” he argued, since most Russians support Russia’s invasion of its neighbour. He proposed further isolating Russian citizens through visa restrictions, with exceptions for humanitarian purposes, and confiscating Russian government assets.

He also proposed increasing military aid. 

“The only way to move forward is to strengthen the current strategy, which is support to Ukraine, send more military aid [sic],” he said.

The Ukrainian government has been asking its western partners to designate Russia as a “terrorist state” for months. In a video message posted late Saturday, Zelensky said western countries were finally expressing support for such a move.

“Our state received many signals from different countries condemning the Russian terrorist act in Olenivka,” he said. 

He added that the “world sees the truth” and “there must be legal steps on the part of the world community against the terrorist state.” 

“Formal legal recognition of Russia as a terrorist state, in particular, recognition by the U.S. Department of State,” he said, “is needed not as a political gesture but as an effective defence of the free world.”

The comments by Rinkēvičs come after Russian gas monopoly Gazprom again tightened the gas noose on Europe by announcing on Saturday it was stopping deliveries to Latvia for an alleged breach-of-contract terms. “Today Gazprom stopped gas supplies to Latvia within the framework of the July order due to the violation of … conditions,” the company said in a Telegram post but offered no further details.

Ukraine may be gaining, though, in its counter offensive on the southern city of Kherson. The British Ministry of Defence reported on Thursday, July 28th, that Ukrainian forces had used long-range U.S.-supplied rockets, the famous HIMARS, to hit three bridges on the Dnipro River which Russia relies on to supply the areas. 

In his daily address on Thursday, Zelesky also said that the bridges would be rebuilt by Ukraine but for now their destruction hampered the Russian advance on Ukrainian territory. 

On Friday, a Pentagon official lauded Ukraine’s use of HIMARS, as significantly hampering Russia’s strategy of air superiority. 

August 1st saw another win for Ukraine, as the first maritime shipment of grain to leave under an agreement made with the UN set sail from the Black Sea port of Odessa, according to the British Ministry of Defence. It is the first Ukrainian shipment to move through the Black Sea, a key trade route, since the beginning of the war and should help alleviate looming food scarcity around the world.