Russia Wants ‘Full Control’ Over Ukraine’s South, East And Eyes Part Of Moldova, Commander Says

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Topline

Russia will try to assert full control over large swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine and could be targeting Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova, a commander of Russia’s Central Military District (CFD) said on Friday, giving the clearest insight yet into Vladimir Putin’s plans for the “second stage” of the war.

Key Facts

Russian forces plan to establish “full control” over southern Ukraine and the country’s eastern Donbas region as part of the “second phase” of its military operation, said CFD acting commander Rustam Minnekayev, according to Russian news agencies and multiple news reports.

If successful, Minnekayev said the plans would create a land corridor from Russia to Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula Moscow illegally invaded and annexed in 2014.

Control over the regions would also open up a route to Transnistria, Minnekayev said, a breakaway region of Moldova backed and armed by Moscow.

Without providing proof, Minnekayev said there is evidence Russian-speaking minorities are oppressed in Transnistria.

Moscow has previously alleged the persecution of Russian-speaking groups in Ukraine and justified its invasion to purportedly protect them in the Donetsk and Luhansk, separatist regions that are also backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine.

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Key Background

The comments—from a senior military official—provide the clearest insight yet into Moscow’s plans in Ukraine. They represent a marked escalation in rhetoric, expanding the scope of Russia’s invasion significantly. Russia’s previous statements have highlighted its goal to control the Donbas region but did not extend to southern Ukraine or as far west as Moldova. While Transnistria is recognized internationally as part of Moldova, it has been practically autonomous since the early 1990s. The region has close ties to Russia, is supported militarily by Moscow and hosts Russian troops and is effectively governed by a pro-Russian regime. Kyiv has warned Transnistria, which lies on Ukraine’s western border, could be the staging ground for a Russian attack. Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe and neither a member of NATO or the European Union, has expressed concern it could be in Putin’s sights after Ukraine.

Further Reading

Russia says it seeks ‘full control’ of southern Ukraine, access to Moldova’s Transnistria region — live updates (DW)

Ukraine’s tiny neighbor worries it could be next on Putin’s list (NBC News)

Moldovans Welcome Fleeing Ukrainians, but Some Pack Their Own Bags, Too (NYT)

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