By Jason Lemon
Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves the scene during a concert marking the City Day on September 9 in Moscow, Russia.© Contributor/Getty Images
Akey Russian general who Russian President Vladimir Putin promoted this week views the invasion of Ukraine as a mere “stepping stone” to further conflict with Europe.
Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, sparking fears from many analysts that the Kremlin may have greater ambitions beyond taking control of its former Soviet neighbor. Russian commentators and lawmakers have often heightened those fears with their anti-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) rhetoric throughout the war—routinely encouraging direct strikes on European and even American targets.
This week, Putin promoted Lieutenant General Andrey Mordvichev to the rank of Colonel-General. The military leader had already been serving in the role of commanding the Central Military District and Russian Central Grouping of Forces in Ukraine.
In a recent interview with Moscow’s state-run Russia-1, a clip of which circulated widely on social media Saturday, Mordvichev said he believes Putin’s war will last quite a long time and expand in the future.
“I think there’s still plenty of time to spend. It is pointless to talk about a specified period. If we are talking about Eastern Europe, which we will have to, of course then it will be longer,” the general said.
“Ukraine is only a stepping stone?” the interviewer then asked.
“Yes, absolutely. It is only the beginning,” Mordvichev responded, who went on to say that the war “will not stop here.”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian embassy via email for comment.
Ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, Putin laid out a vision to reconstitute the long-defunct Russian Empire’s territories into a unified block. The Russian leader and his allies have repeatedly said they do not view Ukraine as independent from Russia, saying that the sovereign nation should be brought back under Moscow’s control.
Some of Putin’s allies have often floated the possibility of expanding the Kremlin’s invasion into NATO countries, including Poland and several other Eastern European nations. Analysts have citied the Russian president’s vision and the suggestions to expand the war from his various allies as worrying signs that Moscow could push its military efforts beyond Ukraine.
NATO leaders have defended their military and humanitarian aide to Ukraine, saying their aim is to prevent Putin from pushing his forces further west into Europe. Eastern European nations, such as Poland, have been some of Ukraine’s loudest defenders as their leaders fear their borders could be next to be challenged by Putin’s forces.
Russian leaders claim that their Ukraine invasion was defensive to prevent NATO’s expansion, and to protect Russian-speakers in Ukraine from “genocide.” They claim that Kyiv’s government is led by Nazis, while also saying that Ukraine is too supportive of LGBTQ+ rights.
Many view the Nazi claim as particularly bizarre. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish, and is himself a native Russian-speaker. During his 2019 election campaign he drew criticism for his accent when he spoke Ukrainian. At the time when Zelensky won and took office, Ukraine’s prime minister was also Jewish.