A top Russian military officer on Friday hinted that the Kremlin’s goal in Ukraine is more ambitious than previously believed and now includes the takeover of the entire Donbas region and the country’s south. 
Rustam Minnekayev, the acting commander of Russia’s central military district, told Interfax that the second phase of the war will include “establishing total control of the Donbas and southern Ukraine.” He said the victory would “allow us to set up a land corridor to Crimea and affect vital parts of the Ukrainian economy.” 
Minnekayev also said seizing the land would give Moscow access to Transnistria in Moldova, which is comprised of Russian-backed separatists.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” he said, according to the BBC.
The New York Times described Transnistria as “a thin sliver of territory that is controlled by at least 12,000 separatists and Russian troops.” The paper said the government in Moldova has been concerned about the territory after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
TRENDPOST: The Trends Journal, which is completely opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, has long said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should have made concessions with Russia at the outset of the war and save thousands of lives and property. (See “EU PARLIAMENT HEAD GOES HEAD OVER HEALS AFTER MEETING ZELENSKY.”)
Ukraine used Minnekayev’s comment as further proof that Moscow never intended to stop its campaign in Ukraine and that the invasion was just the first step in Russia’s drive to control much of the nation. 
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine was intended only as a beginning, then they want to capture other countries,” Zelensky said.
The BBC reported that Ukraine’s defense ministry also denounced the comments as Russian “imperialism.”
“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?” Zelensky said late on Friday.
Jalina Porter, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, did not specifically address Minnekayev’s comments but said Washington supported Moldova’s sovereignty. Moldova is tiny and poor, with a population of fewer than three million.
“No one should be fooled by the Kremlin’s announcements,” Porter said. Moldova, a former Soviet republic, is not a member of the European Union or NATO. (Ukraine was not a full member of NATO.)
The West and Moldova have rejected Russia’s claim that these separatists are being mistreated.

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