Commander Says Russia Will Seize Southern Ukraine

He says Moscow also wants to 'protect' Russian speakers in Moldova region
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2022 9:46 AM CDT
Commander: Russia Intends to Take Southern Ukraine
Internally displaced people from Mariupol and nearby towns arrive at a refugee center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Thursday, April 21, 2022.   (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A Russian commander made it clear Friday that Moscow isn't planning to stop the war in Ukraine anytime soon. State media quoted Rustam Minnekayev, acting commander of Russia's central military district, as saying Russia plans to take full control of southern Ukraine as well as the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reports. Minnekayev reportedly said Russia plans to hold southern Ukraine as a land bridge between Donbas and Ukraine, and as "another way to Transdniestria, where there is also evidence that the Russian-speaking population is being oppressed."

Transdniestria is a breakaway pro-Russia republic in Moldova that has not been recognized by any UN member state, although Russia has a consulate and an estimated 1,500 troops there. Minnekayev was quoted as saying the occupation of southern Ukraine is a main goal of the second phase of Russia's "special military option" and will affect "vital objects of the Ukrainian economy," including Black Sea ports the country exports products from. His remarks contradict Vladimir Putin's claims that Russia isn't planning to permanently occupy Ukrainian cities, the Guardian reports. It's not clear whether Minnekayev's remarks were officially sanctioned, and the Kremlin has refused to answer questions on the subject.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Thursday night that Russia is planning to hold sham "independence" referendums in occupied parts of southern Ukraine. "Be very careful about what information you provide to the invaders," Zelensky said. "And if they ask you to fill out some questionnaires, leave your passport data somewhere, you should know—this is not to help you." Zelensky also thanked President Biden for a new package of $800 million in military aid, saying the heavy artillery, drones, and ammunition were "just what we were waiting for,” the AP reports. (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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