Russia has revealed that the aim of its invasion of Ukraine was to take “full control” of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern region of Donbass.
The announcement by a senior military official marks the first time Russia has admitted it is fighting to establish a land corridor through Ukrainian territory linking Russia with Crimea, the peninsula it annexed in 2014.
“Since the beginning of the second phase of the special operation, which literally began two days ago, one of the tasks of the Russian army has been to establish full control over Donbass and southern Ukraine. This will provide a land corridor to Crimea,” the major said. General Rustam Minnekaev, acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, said according to TASS, a Russian state news agency.
Minnekaev, speaking at the annual general meeting of the Union of Defense Industry Enterprises of the Sverdlovsk Region, was quoted by TASS as saying that the goal was to create a land corridor between the Ukrainian region of Donbass and Crimea.
He added that controlling southern Ukraine would allow Russian forces access to Transnistria, a small breakaway state in Moldova, where a contingent of Russian forces have been stationed since the early 1990s.
Russian forces currently have only partial control over southern Ukraine, with the Ukrainian government still controlling the key cities of Mykolaiv and Odessa and some Ukrainian forces holding out at a steel mill in the encircled port of Mariupol.
In recent weeks, Russia has withdrawn its forces to northern Ukraine after failing to take kyiv, with Russian military officials saying their strategic goals have shifted to taking the entire eastern Donbass region.
Asked by reporters on Friday which territories were meant by southern Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment and referred questions to the Defense Ministry.
Ukrainian authorities have warned in recent days that Russian forces occupying the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson plan to hold a mock referendum declaring a so-called “Kherson People’s Republic” in the coming days, reflecting the Russian-backed creation of breakaway republics in the Donbass. in 2014 which set the stage for the February 24 invasion of Russia.
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