She was speaking to reporters after meeting with her Danish counterpart, Mette Frederiksen, in Vilnius.

"Russia's war crimes, which we also discussed, and the lies coming from the country's top officials are difficult to understand for the civilized world, which both Lithuania and Denmark undoubtedly belong to," Simonyte said at the joint news conference.

"Therefore, it is very difficult to believe the Kremlin's promises about its troop withdrawal or any sincere willingness to negotiate," the Lithuanian prime minister said.

"We agreed today – and I think that this is the position that most countries will probably take – that all of this can only be judged by deeds and certainly not by words," she added.

Despite a genuine desire to see the situation improve, it is important to keep looking at it realistically and to step up the pressure, rather than reducing it, according to Simonyte.

Earlier this week, Moscow said it would "drastically" reduce military activity in northern Ukraine, around Kyiv and Chernihiv, following "meaningful" progress in the peace talks in Istanbul.

However, the Kremlin's statement was met with scepticism by Ukrainian and US officials. It is believed that Russia could be merely repositioning its forces.

Broader sanctions

Simonyte noted that EU leaders have agreed to take action to "plug the holes and loopholes in the sanctions", adding that it is important to continue working in this direction.

"I think we have to be consistent and patient and continue to step up the pressure," she said.

Frederiksen echoed her Lithuanian counterpart, saying that "we are ready to do as hard sanctions as possible".

"But I will not go into concrete discussions about sanctions before we have decided upon them. I expect more sanctions, and we are ready to do our part," she said.

Simonyte said that the EU could exclude more Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payment system and stop importing energy resources from the country.

"Only a small part of the banking system is currently decoupled from SWIFT," the Lithuanian prime minister said. "This sanction could be broadened further, and the other, probably very obvious, issue in the discussion, although not an easy one, is energy resources, something that is currently feeding the Russian war machine".

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU has frozen the Russian central bank's assets, imposed trade restrictions, cut off some Russian and Belarusian banks from the SWIFT system, and blacklisted several thousand officials and oligarchs from both countries.

However, the bloc has so far been reluctant to impose an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports, because some of its members are heavily dependent on Russian energy resources, and has not removed some banks from SWIFT because payments for these resources are done via the banks.

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