Russian Foreign Minister Signals Intention to Annex Southern Ukraine

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Russian Foreign Minister Signals Intention to Annex Southern Ukraine
Credit: © Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith -- Russia's Foreign Minister gave the clearest signal yet that the Kremlin intends to annex southern Ukraine, rather than just concentrate on the eastern regions that are now largely under its control.

Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state-owned media that "the geography has changed". 

"It's no longer just about the DNR and LNR (the breakaway republics in the eastern Donbas region) but the Kherson and Zaporizhiya regions and a row of other territories," Lavrov said. "This process is ongoing, consistently and assertively."

Lavrov's comments are another clear shift in the ambitions that Moscow has communicated for what it calls a "special military operation".  It had invaded Ukraine in February with the intention of seizing the capital Kyiv and overthrowing a Ukrainian government that it accuses of being "Nazi". However, after its initial attack was repelled, it switched its focus to the conquest of the Donbas region, with President Vladimir Putin saying that the saving of Russian-speaking people in that region was its overriding priority. 

Lavrov pointed to the deployment of U.S.-developed long-range artillery by the Ukrainian government as the justification for the proposed annexation. 

"The geographical objective will have to move from the current line, because we can't allow a direct threat to our territory in the part of Ukraine under (President Volodymyr) Zelensky or whoever replaces him," Lavrov said.

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