Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia’s invasion of his country was just the beginning and that Moscow has designs on capturing other countries, after a Russian general said it wants full control over southern Ukraine.
“All the nations that, like us, believe in the victory of life over death must fight with us. They must help us, because we are the first in line. And who will come next?” Zelenskyy said in a video address late on Friday.
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 Transnistria, a breakaway Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west. That would cut off Ukraine’s entire coastline and mean Russian forces pushing hundreds of miles west beyond current lines, past the major Ukrainian coastal cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa. The statement was one of the most detailed about Moscow’s ambitions in Ukraine and suggests Russia does not plan to wind down its offensive there anytime soon.
On Twitter, Ukraine’s defence ministry said Minnekayev’s comments showed Russia was no longer hiding its intentions. Moscow, it said, had now “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.”Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine and liberate its population from dangerous nationalists.
Ukraine and its Western allies call Russia’s February 24 invasion an unjustified war of aggression. Moldova’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Moscow’s ambassador on Friday to express “deep concern” about the general’s comments. Moldova was neutral, it said. Moldova last month applied to join the European Union, charting a pro-Western course hastened by Russia’s invasion.