Russia says it plans ‘full control’ of Donbass and southern Ukraine – POLITICO

According to a senior Russian military official, Russia is aiming for “full control” of the Donbass region and southern Ukraine as part of the “second phase” of its invasion.

Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, said Friday that control of Donbass “will allow us to establish a ground corridor to Crimea and gain leverage over vital Ukraine [military] Facilities serving Black Sea ports that serve shipments of agricultural and metallurgical products to other countries.”

Crimea was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

The statement came the day after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that the southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov had been taken by Russian forces after weeks of fierce fighting.

The only pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the city remains at the Azovstal Steel Plant, where hundreds of civilians and Ukrainian troops are trapped.

During the meeting with Shoigu, Putin ordered the Russian military to cancel plans to storm the plant, adding that Azovstal should instead be safely blocked. “Seal off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape,” Putin reportedly said.

Minnekayev also said that taking control of southern Ukraine would give Russian troops better access to Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway region “where there is also evidence that the Russian-speaking population is being oppressed,” Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted as saying Minnekayev as I said.

Transnistria’s capital, Tiraspol, is around 100 kilometers north-west of the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.

After beginning the invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian troops reached towns on the outskirts of Kyiv within days. However, after suffering heavy casualties from hit-and-run tactics by Ukrainian troops and an inability to secure a steady supply of fuel and food, Russian forces have failed to encircle the capital.

In early April, Moscow completed the withdrawal of its troops stationed around Kyiv and from the northern regions of Ukraine. On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “Now it can be stated that Russian troops have started the battle for Donbass, for which they have been preparing for a long time.”

“A very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive,” he said.

Andriy Yermak, Chief of Staff to the President of Ukraine wrote on his Telegram page on Friday that “they [the Russians] believe that they can conquer the Donbass and the south of Ukraine, counting on putting economic pressure on our state. We have our own scenarios for protecting Ukraine, and I would like to remind you that many of the Kremlin’s plans have already been thwarted by the work of our army and people. This is a war for freedom and we will win.”

This article has been updated. Russia says it plans 'full control' of Donbass and southern Ukraine - POLITICO

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