Russia seeks to capture southern Ukraine in drastic expansion of war goals

A top Russian commander said troops will work to create a link with Transnistria in Moldova, which would require significantly more fighting.

RUSSIA CORRESPONDENT, ISTANBUL

22 April 2022 •

Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armoured vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol
Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armoured vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol CREDIT: CHINGIS KONDAROV /REUTERS

Russia now aims to occupy all of southern Ukraine right up to the border with neighbouring Moldova, as well as taking the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, a top Russian commander said on Friday, indicating that Moscow’s war goals have expanded once again.

Maj Gen Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of the Russian Central Military district, said one of the current objectives for Russian troops in Ukraine is to gain “full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine.”

“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” he told a meeting in Yekaterinburg, quoted by Russian news agencies.

Transnistria is a separatist enclave in Moldova, a former Soviet nation, where there has been a frozen conflict for almost 30 years. The unrecognised breakaway state borders Ukraine on the east and has been under Moscow’s control for years, even hosting a small contingent of Russian troops, but the the military conflict there ended in 1992.

Taking enough territory to reach Moldova would require Russia to not only hold the territory it has seized so far but also to make gains further west, including the city of Odesa, where there has been relatively little fighting so far. 

Analysts have suggested this would be highly ambitious, especially given the recent loss of the Moskva which would have provided aerial cover for a land invasion of the coastal city.

He also once again invoked the idea of connecting with the Russian-annexed region of Crimea, something that Moscow has been pushing for since the beginning of the war: “Control over the Donbass would allow us to build a land bridge to Crimea and be able to oversee vital infrastructure of the Ukrainian armed forces and Black Sea ports that handle agriculture and metals exports to other countries,” 

Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 but has struggled to fully integrate it into Russia as it remains detached by the Black Sea peninsula except for a bridge that was built in 2018.

The Kremlin’s stated goals for the devastating war in Ukraine have changed greatly since the invasion began in late February.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, originally claimed he had no intentions to occupy the neighbouring country. He and his propagandists in the first weeks of the war kept insisting they were fighting “Nazis” in Ukraine and that Russia merely wanted to “de-Nazify and de-militarize” Ukraine.

Swathes of Ukraine’s south, however, have been under de-facto Russian occupation for almost two months, with the Russian military raising Russian flags over Ukrainian towns such as Kherson and in some places installing pro-Russian mayors to replace local legitimate authorities.

The Russian general also made a baffling remark on Friday that reflected the Kremlin’s increasingly isolationist worldview.

“It looks like we are fighting against the whole world now, like it was in the Second World War. The whole world was against us,” he said. “It’s the same thing now. They always hated Russia.”

It was not immediately clear what Maj Gen Minnekayev was referring to, as the Western Allies immediately sided with the Soviet Union after it was attacked by Nazi Germany in 1941.

5 comments

  1. I have no doubt whatsoever that this is their intentions. The only question is: are we going to allow it?
    Once the east and south have gone, the putinazis would take the rest.
    Crimea was a straightforward land grab; justified by endless lies, deception, prevarication and propaganda.
    The current invasion is a continuation of that land grab. It will succeed unless the Budapest signatories act now.
    Unless we provide a NFZ and send ground troops to protect Mykolayiv, Odessa and Kyiv now, the Ukrainians may not have enough manpower to retake Kherson, retake Mariupol and defend the Donbas.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Selected comments from Telegraph readers:

    Tadcaster Tory 
“Russia cannot in fact take all of Southern Ukraine. It hasn’t the numbers or equipment. Just another Russian blowhard sounding off for brownie points.”
    


A Marlow 
“Ireland is an integral part of the UK – unfortunately currently under nazi control. We must bomb Dublin so as to rescue our english speaking compatriots from fascist abuse! We will nuke anyone who interferes. Nonsense, of course, but easily surpassed by the new Hitler in Moscow.”
    

 
Clem Burke 
“I’m beginning to feel ashamed that NATO is letting this happen. 
Sending weaponry is not sufficient now. 
It’s high time all civilised nations collectively gave Putin an ultimatum with military action should it be ignored.”
    

Kevin Auty 
“They always hated Russia” duh? I wonder why everyone hates the torturing, raping, murdering Russians?”
    

Jack Smith 
“I believe that even the Russian top military don’t really know what the game plan is.”
    

Kathryn Jones 
“Moldova is the one they’d invade next. Russia wants the whole of Ukraine, it always has done, it’s just doing so in bite sized chunks now. Ukraine needs much more help, Russia has to be stopped and needs to have pain inflicted.”

    madhav kudva
    “Why is NATO letting this happen ? Essentially, Russia would have control over half of the major cities in Ukraine. Next will be a major push from the south towards Kyiv. A big slap on the face for the timid Biden and the toothless NATO. Next on Putins list would be Moldova. And then Finland and the Baltic states. NATO has shown itself to be all bark and no bite. An impotent imposter which has allowed tens of thousands of Ukrainians to be murdered , tortured and raped , and nearly 700 B of property and infrastructure destroyed. NATO and especially the selfish Germans should be ashamed of themselves.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This whole mess is a complete failure of Nato. Either the West starts real support for Ukraine or Zelensky needs to surrender DLPR and Crimea, before more is lost. If Odesa is gone Ukraine will be dead. I don’t know how many hours i slept since February 24, but it weren’t too many. The world must prevent RuSSia from kidnapping more women and children!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Their intel warned them this would happen many months ago, yet they did nothing.
      Just three divisions of US/UK troops in Ukraine last summer, with air and sea support and the horror show would not have happened.
      It’s an awful and sad thing; I live it 24/7, yet for others the situation is far, far more terrible. Their pain will last until the day they die.
      The gravity of the crimes of putler are directly comparable to the holocaust and the holodomor. So far only the numbers are less.

      Liked by 2 people

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