Russia says it plans full control of Donbass and southern Ukraine; Protests in Moldova

People walk past a heavily damaged residential building during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko

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April 22 (Reuters) – Russia plans to take full control of Donbass and southern Ukraine in the second phase of what it calls its special military operation, the deputy commander of the Central Military District said on Friday. from Russia, Russian news agencies reported.

The statement by Rustam Minnekayev, the deputy commander, is one of the most detailed on Moscow’s ambitions in Ukraine and suggests that Russia does not plan to end its offensive anytime soon.

Interfax and TASS news agencies quoted him as saying that full control of southern Ukraine would improve Russia’s access to the pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova, Transnistria, which borders Ukraine. and which kyiv fears will be used as a launching pad for new attacks.

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“Control of southern Ukraine is another route to Transnistria, where there is also evidence that the Russian-speaking population is oppressed,” Minnekayev quoted TASS as saying at a meeting in Russia’s central Sverdlovsk region.

The Moldovan foreign ministry said it had summoned the Russian ambassador to express its “deep concern” over the remarks.

“These statements are unfounded and contradict the position of the Russian Federation supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova,” he said on his website.

“During the meeting, it was reaffirmed that the Republic of Moldova (…) is a neutral state and that this principle must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation.”

kyiv said earlier this month that an airfield in the Transnistria region was being prepared to receive planes and be used by Moscow to fly troops to Ukraine, allegations that the Moldovan ministry of Defense and the Transnistrian authorities have denied. Read more

Minnekayev was not cited as providing evidence or details of alleged oppression in Transnistria.

He reportedly said Russia planned to forge a land corridor between Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula it annexed in 2014, and Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

The last remaining Ukrainian fighters in the port city of Mariupol in the Donbass are holed up in a vast industrial facility that President Vladimir Putin has ordered blockaded rather than stormed. Mariupol lies between the areas held by Russian separatists and Crimea. Its capture would allow Russia to connect the two areas. Read more

Minnekayev was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA that media reports of Russian military setbacks were far from the truth.

“The media are now talking a lot about some failures of our armed forces. But this is not the case. In the early days … the tactics of the Ukrainian units were designed to ensure that, having gotten ahead , individual groups of Russian troops fell into pre-prepared ambushes and suffered casualties,” he said, according to RIA.

“But the Russian armed forces very quickly adapted to this and changed their tactics.”

According to RIA, he also said daily missile and other strikes against Ukrainian forces meant Russia could cause serious damage without losing troops.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24 in what it called an operation aimed at degrading its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and rooting out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces mounted fierce resistance and the West imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.

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Reuters Editing reporting by Leslie Adler

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