Russia aims to seize full control of not just eastern Ukraine but southern Ukraine as well, a Russian commander said Friday according to the Washington Post.
Russia has focused its assault on eastern Ukraine and the breakaway Donbas region after pulling back from western Ukraine and the capital of Kyiv where its invasion stalled.
But a Russian commander told members of a defense industry forum that the next phase of Russia’s plans is to seize control over southern Ukraine, suggesting the country plans to attack the port city of Odesa.
The plan is to bridge Crimea, which Russia annexed nearly a decade ago, to Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region in Moldova.
The military plans a permanent occupation of regions captured in the war, the commander said.
The announcement contradicted comments from Putin that Russia does not plan to occupy cities permanently.
“Since the beginning of the second phase of the special operation … one of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish full control over Donbas and southern Ukraine. This will provide a land corridor to Crimea, as well as affecting vital objects of the Ukrainian economy, Black Sea ports through which agricultural and metallurgical products are supplied to [other] countries,” said Rustam Minnekayev, acting commander of the central military district.
Russia plans “referendums”:
Russia is planning to hold so-called referendums in occupied southern cities Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that Russia plans to “falsify” independence referendums in the two cities.
Russia is planning “to falsify a so-called referendum on your land, if an order comes from Moscow to stage such a show. And this is the reality. Be careful,” Zelensky warned.