Soviets 35 Mi. From Line;

Threaten to Outflank Kaunas in Lithuania

From the July 14, 1944 Edition of Stars and Stripes

A new Soviet offensive aimed at Riga from the Baltic front east of the Latvian border put a “squeeze” on the hard-pressed German armies in the north yesterday while the Russians to the south—within 35 miles of East Prussia at their nearest point—pushed within 20 miles of Kaunas, former Lithuanian capital, and within 25 miles of the rail junction fortress town of Grodno astride the line to Warsaw.

kaunas soviet front red army attackThe Germans suggested last night that the Russians had driven even farther west—almost to the borders of the disputed province of Suwalki which Adolf Hitler incorporated into East Prussia in 1939.

May Outflank Kaunas

Col. Alfred von Olberg, Berlin military spokesman, reported fighting at Olita, southwest of Kaunas and 52 miles from the pre-war East Prussian border. If true, the enemy’s report would mean that Kaunas, last Nazi hedgehog position before the Reich’s border, was in danger of being outflanked, even as Dvinsk already has been outflanked on the southwest.

The Soviet armies’ new offensive was revealed in an order of the day from Marshal Stalin which announced that the Second Baltic Army under Gen. Andrei Yeremenko, who helped conquer the Crimea last spring, had gone over to the offensive between Dvisnk and Pskov on a 90-mile front, advanced 21 miles and recaptured 1,000 places, including the important rail junction of Idritsa, linking the east-west Moscow-Riga line with the north-south Pskov-Polotsk line.

Dispatches from Moscow yesterday said the speed of Yeremenko’s advance was being maintained and his vanguards were approaching the frontier of Latvia.

Exact Position Vague

Moscow was vague on the exact position of the nearest Soviet troops to the East Prussian border, and the situation was further complicated by the fact that Russia does not recognize the annexed province of Suwalki as part of Prussia.

Nevertheless a Reuter Moscow dispatch reported the Russians within 35 miles of the Reich border but gave no details. It seemed apparent, however, that this closest approach was in the region west of Lida and that the distance was computed to the eastern boundary of Suwalki province. From the front line west of Lida to the pre-war Reich border is nearer 75 miles.

Inside Vilna, bitter fighting raged in the center of the city for the fifth day and the German garrison held out doggedly. Moscow Radio said the Germans were dropping paratroops to reinforce the defense but that half of them were shot as they came down, a quarter became entangled in telegraph wires and cables “and the remainder are wiped out in street fighting.”

Berlin said the Russians had begun their attack on Dvinsk, the river port commanding the Dvina valley leading to Riga, launching their assault from the south with five divisions and an armored brigade.

Nearly 200 miles to the south, the Red Army drive toward Warsaw picked up fresh ground and tank spearheads were reported 50 miles beyond captured Baranovichi, within 15 miles of Volkovysk, chief Nazi defense position standing in front of Bialystok, the fortress junction where the Germans’ defense line swings south to Brest-Litovsk.

red army soldier ww2

Red Army soldiers on the attack.

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