Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said his country’s military goals in Ukraine are no longer limited to the eastern Donbas region but include a number of other territories, according to state media.
In an interview published on Wednesday, Lavrov said that when Russia and Ukraine in March discussed a possible deal to end the hostilities, “our readiness to accept the Ukrainian proposal was based on the geography of March 2022″.
“The geography is different now. It is not only about the DNR and LNR,” Lavrov added, referring to the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR), Russian-backed entities in Ukraine’s east.
“But also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region and a number of other territories,” he said. “This process is continuing, consistently and persistently.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 with the stated goal of “demilitarizing and denazifying” the country – a statement dismissed by Ukraine and Western countries as a pretext for an imperial-style war of expansion. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said his country did not intend to occupy any Ukrainian territories.
After failing to capture the capital Kyiv, Russia’s defense ministry said on March 25 that the first phase of what Moscow describes as its “special military 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 provinces that make up the Donbas – but remains far from capturing all of the other, Donetsk province.
However, its forces have already seized territory way beyond Donbas, especially in the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and continue to launch missile attacks on cities across Ukraine.
In his interview, Lavrov also repeated earlier claims by Russia that the United States and the United Kingdom – two of the Western countries that have provided military aid to Ukraine – were interested in expanding hostilities.
“They want to turn it into a real war and provoke a clash between Russia and European countries,” Lavrov said.
He also accused the US of preventing Ukraine from engaging in talks on a possible settlement with Russia.
“They are keeping them from any constructive steps and not only pumping in weapons but forcing them to use those weapons in an increasingly risky way,” Lavrov said.