Lavrov says Russia’s goals in Ukraine now go beyond the Donbass region

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walks after a bilateral meeting at the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, July 8, 2022. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/Pool

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LONDON (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow’s military “missions” in Ukraine now go beyond the eastern Donbass region, in the clearest admission yet that war aims have expanded in the past five months.

In an interview with the official RIA Novosti news agency, Lavrov said geographical realities had changed since Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held peace talks in Turkey in late March, but they had failed to make any progress.

He said the focus at the time was on the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR), two self-styled separatist entities in eastern Ukraine that Russia said aimed to expel Ukrainian government forces from it.

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“Now the geography is different, it is far from not only the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the LPR, but also the Kherson, Zaporizhia and a number of other regions,” he said, referring to areas outside the Donbass that were completely or partially captured by Russian forces.

“This process continues logically and persistently,” he said, adding that Russia may need to make further progress.

If the West, motivated by “impotent anger” or a desire to aggravate the situation further, continues to pump Ukraine with long-range weapons such as the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), then geographical missions will continue. Beyond the current line, ”said Lavrov.

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He said Russia could not allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “or his replacement” to threaten its territory, the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the LPR with long-term regimes – an occasional reference and without any evidence to the possibility that the Ukrainian leader may not remain in power.

The foreign minister is the most outspoken figure of Russia’s war objectives in terms of territory, nearly five months after President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion while denying that Russia intended to occupy its neighbour.

Putin said at the time that his goal was to disarm and “discredit” Ukraine – a statement that Kyiv and the West rejected as a pretext for an imperial-style expansionist war.

After being defeated in an initial attempt to capture the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, the Russian Defense Ministry said on March 25 that the first phase of its “special military operation” had been completed and that it would now focus on “achieving the main objective, which is the liberation of Donbass.”

Almost four months later, it has acquired Luhansk, one of two regions that make up the Donbass, but is still far from capturing all the other regions, Donetsk. In the past few weeks, it has intensified its missile attacks on cities across Ukraine.

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Written by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Catherine Evans

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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