STORY: A Russian general said on Friday that Moscow wants to seize all of southern and eastern Ukraine, far wider aims than it had previously acknowledged as it presses on with a new offensive.
Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying Moscow aimed to seize the entire eastern Donbas region, link up with the Crimea peninsula, and capture Ukraine’s entire south as far as a breakaway, Russian-occupied region of Moldova – pushing hundreds of miles beyond current lines.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said the comments reveal the lie in Russia’s previous assertions that it had no territorial ambitions, saying on Twitter:
“They stopped hiding it. Today, the command of russian [sic] looters, rapists and murderers acknowledged that the goal of the “second phase” of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces had increased attacks along the whole frontline in the east of the country and were trying to mount an offensive in the Kharkiv region, north of the Donbas.
On the streets Friday in Mariupol, the remains of tanks and other vehicles rested on debris from bombed out buildings – a city of over 400,000 people before Russia’s invasion now reduced to rubble.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory there on Thursday in the biggest battle of the Ukraine war, declaring the port city “liberated,” although hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians were still holding out inside a giant steel works, where plumes of smoke could be seen Friday rising from the plant.
Putin said he had decided not to try to root out the Ukrainian troops still holed up there, but to barricade them inside instead.
The southern city is the scene of the worst humanitarian crisis of what Russia calls its “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.
Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
Satellite imagery released Thursday by Maxar Technologies shows a mass grave site in Mariupol that has expanded in recent weeks to contain more than 200 new graves, according to the company.
Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians have died in the city during Russia’s bombardment and the Mayor of Mariupol on Friday appealed for the “full evacuation” of the devastated city, saying about 100,000 people remain there.