Moscow wants to control all of south Ukraine, says Russian general

Deputy commander says it would give them access to a breakaway, Russian-occupied part of Moldova



Reuters
Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Fri 22 Apr 2022, 11:37 PM

Moscow wants to take full control over southern Ukraine, a Russian general said on Friday, a statement Ukraine said gave the lie to Russia’s previous assertions that it had no territorial ambitions.

Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying full control over southern Ukraine would give it access to a breakaway, Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west. That would cut off Ukraine’s entire coastline and mean pushing hundreds of miles west beyond current lines, past the major Ukrainian cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa.

Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine and liberate its population from people it calls dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia’s military operation is an unjustified war of aggression. “They stopped hiding it,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Twitter. Russia had “acknowledged that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when asked if Russia had expanded the goals of its operation and how Moscow saw the political future of southern Ukraine.

A senior EU official said the next couple of weeks were likely to be decisive. “This is not a fairy tale with an imminent happy ending. I think we are likely to see a very significant increase in the intensity of Russian military attacks in the east, I think we are likely to see an intensification of Russian military attacks along the coast,” the official said.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces had increased attacks all along the frontline in the east and were trying to mount an offensive in the Kharkiv region. — reuters

, north of their main target, the southeastern Donbas region.

In Kharkiv city, Russian shellfire hit the main Barabashovo market. Ambulance services said there had been casualties but no details were available yet. A wedding hall and a residential building were also struck.

In Geneva, the United Nations human rights office said there was growing evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, including indiscriminate shelling and summary executions. It said Ukraine also appeared to have used weapons with indiscriminate effects.

Russia denies targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities committed by its soldiers were faked.

COLLECTING BODIES

Russia said on Thursday it had won the war’s biggest fight - the battle for the main port of the Donbas, Mariupol - after a nearly two-month siege. President Vladimir Putin said he had decided not to try to root out thousands of Ukrainian troops still holed up in a huge steel works there, but to barricade them inside instead.

Washington dismissed the announcement.

“Actions, not words. I think we have to watch and see what the Russians actually do here,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told CNN. “We still assess that Mariupol is contested, that it hasn’t been taken by the Russians and that there’s still an active Ukrainian resistance.”

In a Russian-held section of the city, the guns had largely fallen silent and dazed-looking residents ventured out into streets on Thursday to a background of charred apartment blocks and wrecked cars. Some carried suitcases.

Volunteers in white hazmat suits and masks roved the ruins, collecting bodies from inside apartments and loading them on to a truck marked with the letter “Z”, symbol of Russia’s invasion.

Maxar, a commercial satelite company, said images from space showed freshly dug mass graves on the city’s outskirts. Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians have died in the city during Russia’s bombardment and siege.

Kyiv says 100,000 civilians are still inside Mariupol and need full evacuation.

The United Nations and Red Cross say the civilian toll is still unknowable but at least in the thousands. Russia says it has rescued Mariupol from nationalists.

In Zaporizhzhia, where 79 Mariupol residents arrived in the first convoy of buses permitted by Russia to leave for other parts of Ukraine, Valentyna Andrushenko held back tears as she recalled the ordeal under siege.

“They (Russians) were bombing us from day one. They are demolishing everything. Just erasing it,” she said of the city.

Kyiv said no new evacuations were planned for Friday. Moscow says it has taken 140,000 Mariupol residents to Russia. Kyiv says many were deported by force in what would be a war crime.

RESISTANCE

Western countries believe Putin is desperate to demonstrate a victory after his forces failed to capture the capital Kyiv.

In a late-night address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia was doing all it could “to talk about at least some victories”.

“They can only postpone the inevitable - the time when the invaders will have to leave our territory, including from Mariupol, a city that continues to resist Russia regardless of what the occupiers say,” Zelenskiy said.

Minnekayev, the Russian general, said Russian speakers were oppressed in Transdnistria, a Russian-occupied breakaway part of Moldova on Ukraine’s southwestern border. Moldova and Western leaders say that is untrue.

Moscow gave the same justification for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and backing of separatists in Donbas. Ukraine says it fears Moscow might try to organise fake independence votes in southern areas as it did in the east and Crimea.

British military intelligence reported heavy fighting in the east as Russian forces tried to advance on settlements, but said the Russians were suffering from losses sustained early in the war and were sending equipment back to Russia for repair.

The United States authorized another $800 million in military aid for Ukraine on Thursday, including heavy artillery and drones, citing a “critical window” in the conflict. — reuters

WRAPUP 9-Russian general says Moscow aims to control all of southern Ukraine

(Adds Kremlin no comment, EU official on decisive phase)

* General describes Moscow’s aims in new, broader terms

* Ukraine says comments show Russia is seeking occupation

* Moscow has previously said it aims to liberate Ukrainians

* EU official sees decisive couple of weeks

By Pavel Polityuk

KYIV/MARIUPOL, April 22 (Reuters) -


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