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Russia’s objectives in Ukraine now go beyond the Donbas, foreign minister says

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia’s objectives will expand still further if the West delivers long-range weapons to Kyiv.
Ukrainian servicemen fire weaponry during drills in Kharkiv on Tuesday. Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

LONDON — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that the geographical objectives of Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine are no longer limited to the eastern Donbas region but include a number of other territories, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Lavrov added that Russia’s objectives will expand still further if the West delivers long-range weapons to Kyiv, the agency said.

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When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, President Vladimir Putin denied any intention of occupying Ukrainian territories, saying his aim was to demilitarise and “denazify” the country — a statement dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a pretext for an imperial-style war of expansion.

After being beaten back in an initial attempt to take the capital Kyiv, Russia’s defence ministry said on March 25 that the first phase of the special operation was complete and it would now focus on “achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas”.

Nearly four months later, it has taken Luhansk, one of two regions that make up the Donbas, but remains far from capturing all of the other, Donetsk.

However, its forces have already seized territory way beyond Donbas, especially in the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, and continue to launch missile strikes on cities across Ukraine.

The White House said Tuesday it has detailed information outlining Russian efforts to annex additional Ukrainian territory, including forcing residents to apply for Russian citizenship, making the ruble the official currency and taking control of telecommunications networks.