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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Russia’s invasion of his country is just the beginning and that Moscow intends to capture other countries, after a Russian general said he wanted a total control over southern Ukraine.

“All nations who, like us, believe in the victory of life over death must fight with us. They must help us, because we are the first. And who will come next?” Zelenskyy said in a video address Friday evening.

Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying that full control over southern Ukraine would give him access to breakaway Transnistria. from Russian-occupied Moldova to the west. This would cut off the entire coastline of Ukraine and mean that Russian forces would push hundreds of kilometers west beyond the current lines, past the main Ukrainian coastal cities of Mykolaiv and Odessa. The statement was one of the most detailed on Moscow’s ambitions in Ukraine and suggests that Russia does not plan to end its offensive anytime soon.

On Twitter, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Minnekayev’s comments showed Russia was no longer hiding its intentions. Moscow, he said, had now “recognized that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of the east and south of Ukraine. Imperialism as it is”. a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and free its people from dangerous nationalists.

Ukraine and its Western allies call the February 24 Russian invasion a war of unwarranted aggression. The Moldovan Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Moscow ambassador on Friday to express its “deep concern” at the general’s remarks. Moldova was neutral, he said. Last month, Moldova applied to join the European Union, charting a pro-Western path accelerated by the Russian invasion.

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