Russia Expands Objectives in Ukraine

Russia’s Foreign Minister announced this week that the Kremlin’s goals in Ukraine now extend beyond the eastern flank. Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia would expand its objectives to also include provinces in the south of Ukraine.

The announcement, made on Wednesday to RIA News, marks a change of rhetoric. The Kremlin previously claimed it was not waging a war of expansion. After Russia’s failure to capture the capital of Kyiv, Moscow claimed the ‘liberation’ of separatist regions in Donbas was its primary goal. Ukraine, as well as the majority of its Western allies, have maintained that Russia’s aims have always been to destroy Ukraine and annihilate its culture.

While Russian forces now hold the entire Luhansk province, and continue to fight for control over Donetsk, they have not made any significant gains in the past three weeks. Luhansk and Donetsk together make up the Donbas region.

Lavrov now says the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces in the south, as well as “a number of other territories,” will become war objectives for Russia. The port city of Kherson fell to Russia in early March, and Putin’s forces have been trying to seize the rest of the province. However, Ukrainian soldiers recently intensified counterattacks in the region.

The Kremlin has added the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces, on the southern end of the country’s eastern flank, to its objectives.

Some analysts believe a counteroffensive in Kherson would constitute an important shift in the war. John Kirby, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, believes “Ukraine and its Western partners may have a narrowing window of opportunity to support a Ukrainian counteroffensive into occupied Ukrainian territory before the Kremlin annexes that territory.”

Lavrov also threatened objectives could expand further if the West continued to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons. The more the West “pumps Ukraine with ever more long-distance weaponry”, he said, “the further the geographical aims of the special operation will move from the current line.”

He specifically mentioned HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which the US has provided Ukraine with. Earlier this week Kyiv used a HIMARS missile to hit the Antonivsky bridge in Kherson, a major supply route from Crimea for Russian forces in the area.

Lavrov stated that Russia would not allow that, “in the part of Ukraine that will be under the command of Zelensky or whoever will replace him, there will be weaponry that will constitute a direct threat to our territories and the territories of those republics who have announced their independence.”

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