Russia declares plans to grab more land in Ukraine - TopAsiaFX

021, Jul 2022

Ukrainian forces on Wednesday damaged a bridge that is key to supplying Russian troops in southern Ukraine, where Russia’s foreign minister said Moscow will consolidate its territorial gains.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-controlled RT television and the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia plans to retain control over broader areas beyond eastern Ukraine, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south, and will make more gains elsewhere.

Lavrov’s remarks and the Ukrainian missile attack on the strategically important Kherson region bridge indicated the nearly five-month war could broaden after unfolding mostly in eastern Ukraine since April.

Russia’s top diplomat noted that when Russia and Ukraine March discussed a possible deal to end the fighting, “Our readiness to accept the Ukrainian proposal was based on the geography of March 2022.”

“Now it’s a different geography,” Lavrov said, repeating Moscow’s claims that the United States and Britain were encouraging Ukraine to expand the hostilities.

With Western countries providing Ukraine with longer-range weapons, Lavrov said Russia’s “geographical tasks will be pushed even further from the current line because we cannot allow the part of Ukraine under control of Zelenskyy or whoever comes to succeed him, to have weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territories of those republics that have declared their independence.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and quickly seized territory, but withdrew from the capital region and north to concentrate on seizing Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which pro-Moscow separatists have partly controlled since 2014.

As Russian forces captured more of the two provinces, which together make up Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region, Ukrainian officials planned a counter-offensive to retake Russian-occupied areas in the south.

The Ukrainian strike on the Dnipro River bridge, the second in as many days, appeared intended to loosen Russia’s grip on the southern Kherson region.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of a temporary, Russian-installed administration running the region, said the Ukrainian military struck the Antonivskyi Bridge using U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers. The 1.4-kilometer (0.9-mile) bridge is the main river crossing in the Kherson region, and the Russian military uses it to supply its forces. Stremousov said that because of the bridge damage, pontoons would be constructed over the river, also known as the Dnieper.

The head of the Moscow-appointed Kherson administration, Vladimir Saldo, said cars could continue driving across the bridge but trucks couldn’t and instead could use a dam 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.

Early in the war, Russian troops overran the Kherson region just north of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. They have faced Ukrainian counterattacks, but have largely held their ground.

Kherson — site of ship-building at the confluence of the Dnipro River and the Black Sea — is one of several areas a U.S. government spokesman said Russia is trying to take over.

White House national security council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials have evidence that Russia wants to annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and all of the Donbas through referendums, as soon as September.

In Zaporizhzhia, Russian-installed authorities claimed Wednesday that Ukraine’s military had used drones to attack the local nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest. Vladimir Rogov, a local Moscow-appointed official, said three Ukrainian attack drones had hit the plant’s territory with explosives but not its reactor area.

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All normal operations continued, and no release of radiation was detected, he said. Russia’s state news agency Tass reported 11 plant workers were injured, four seriously. The news agency later quoted a Russian military official as saying the attack had occurred Monday. Ukrainian authorities, who have over the past months reported Russian missiles almost hitting the plant, did not immediately comment on the report.