Russia’s war aims in Ukraine broaden, US says any annexation will be contested – SABC News

Russia’s military “tasks” in Ukraine now extend beyond the eastern region of Donbass, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday, as his forces bombarded eastern and southern Ukraine.

Lavrov also told state news agency RIA Novosti that Moscow’s targets would expand further if the West continued to supply Kyiv with long-range weapons such as high-mobility artillery rocket systems. (HIMARS) made in the USA.

“This means that the geographical tasks will extend even further from the current line,” he said.

Lavrov’s comments were the clearest acknowledgment yet that Russia’s war aims have broadened in the five months of war.

The United States, which on Tuesday said it saw signs Russia was preparing to formally annex territory it seized in Ukraine, vowed it would oppose annexation.

“Once again, we have been clear that annexation by force would be a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, and we would not allow it to go unchallenged. We would not allow this to go unpunished,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday during a daily briefing.

Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014 and supports the breakaway Russian-speaking entities – the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) – in those provinces, collectively known as Donbass.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia rejects diplomacy and wants “blood, not talks”.

In Washington, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said the Donbass region had not yet been lost to the Russians. Ukrainian forces withdrew from Lugansk earlier this month.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told a meeting of allies that the United States would send four more HIMARS to Ukraine.

BOMBING RAID

The Ukrainian military reported heavy and sometimes deadly Russian shelling amid what they said were largely unsuccessful attempts by Russian ground forces to advance.

The Russian-installed administration in the partially occupied Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia said Ukraine carried out a drone strike on a nuclear power plant there, but the reactor was not damaged.

Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Ukrainian officials had no immediate comment.

Lavrov is the most prominent figure to speak openly about Russia’s war aims in territorial terms, nearly five months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 24 invasion while denying that Russia intended to take care of your neighbour.

Next, Putin declared that his aim was to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine – a statement rejected by Kyiv and the West as a pretext for an imperial-style war of expansion.

Lavrov told RIA Novosti that geographical realities have changed since Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held peace talks in Turkey in late March that yielded no breakthrough.

“Now the geography is different, it’s far from just DPR and LPR, it’s also Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and a number of other territories,” he said, referring to territories far beyond the Donbass that Russian forces have fully or partially seized.

BLACKMAIL ENERGY

Meanwhile, fears that Russian gas supplies via Europe’s largest gas pipeline could be cut off by Moscow prompted the European Union to tell member states to cut their gas consumption by 15% until March. as an emergency measure.

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia uses energy as a weapon,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, describing a complete cutoff of Russian gas flows as “a likely scenario” for which “Europe must be ready.” .

Putin had previously warned that gas supplies sent to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which was shut down for 10 days for maintenance, risked being further reduced.

Russia, the world’s biggest gas exporter, has denied Western accusations of using its energy supplies as a tool of coercion, saying it is a reliable energy supplier.

As for its oil, Russia will not send supplies to the world market if a price cap is imposed below the cost of production, the Interfax news agency said on Wednesday quoting Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.

European diplomats meeting in Brussels agreed on a new round of sanctions against Moscow, including a ban on imports of gold from Russia and freezing the assets of major lender Sberbank. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the sanctions inadequate.

“Russia must feel a much higher price for war to force it to seek peace,” Zelenskyy said in a late-night video address.

The Russian invasion killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed cities, especially in the Russian-speaking regions of eastern and southeastern Ukraine.

It has also raised global energy and food prices and heightened fears of famine in poorer countries, with Ukraine and Russia both major grain producers.

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