War In Ukraine: Russia Aiming For Complete Control Of The South, Says Commander
According to a senior Russian officer, Russia wants to gain full control of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region. State media quoted Maj Gen Rustam Minnekayev as saying that achieving this target would allow Moscow to build a land bridge to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
Although it is unclear whether Gen Minnekayev’s remarks were formally sanctioned by the Kremlin, they were extensively reported in Russian state media outlets such as Interfax and Tass.
Russian defence officials informed the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg that they were “looking into” the general’s remarks, which, if true, would provide the first glimpse into Russia’s possible preparations for the next weeks.
Meanwhile, a senior EU official told Reuters that Russia is likely to expand its attacks in eastern Ukraine and along the southern coast in the coming days, adding that the next two weeks might determine the outcome of the war.
Moldova summoned Moscow’s ambassador in response to the remarks, which the country’s foreign ministry called “very disturbing.” On Friday, Gen Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, spoke at a military event in the Sverdlovsk region.
“Control Of Ukraine’s South Is Another Route To Transnistria, Where There Are Also Reports Of Mistreatment Of The Russian-Speaking Minority,” Gen Minnekayev Stated.
Before beginning the invasion on February 24, Mr Putin made similar allegations about purported discrimination against Russian speakers in Ukraine, but without offering evidence. Ukraine’s defence ministry slammed Gen Minnekayev’s remarks as “imperialism” by Russia.
Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s president, responded to them in his regular night-time address. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine was simply meant to be a start; they want to take over other nations,” he asserted.
He previously stated that Russia planned to stage a series of phoney independence referendums in occupied territories in order to establish a series of pro-Russian breakaway nations. “You should know this is not to aid you if they ask you to fill out some questionnaires or leave your passport data someplace,” he advised.
In the following weeks, referendums are scheduled in Kherson and occupied districts around Zaporizhzhia, according to a representative for the Ukrainian defence ministry.
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