Russia announces plans to grab more land in Ukraine | World


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces on Wednesday damaged a bridge critical to supplying Russian troops in southern Ukraine, where Russia’s foreign minister said Moscow would consolidate territorial gains.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state television RT and the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia plans to retain control over wider areas beyond eastern Ukraine, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south, and would make more gains elsewhere.

Lavrov’s remarks and the Ukrainian missile attack on the strategically important bridge in the Kherson region signaled that the nearly five-month war could expand after being fought mainly in eastern Ukraine for april.

The head of Russian diplomacy noted that when Russia and Ukraine discussed in March a possible agreement to end the fighting, “our willingness to accept the Ukrainian proposal was based on the geography of March 2022”.

“Now it’s a different geography,” Lavrov said, repeating Moscow’s claims that the United States and Britain were encouraging Ukraine to expand hostilities.

Western countries supplying Ukraine with longer-range weapons, Lavrov said that “Russia’s geographical tasks will be even further from the current line because we cannot allow the part of Ukraine under the control of Zelenskyy or whoever comes after him, to have weapons which directly threaten our territory and the territories of the republics which have declared their independence”.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and quickly seized the territory, but withdrew from the capital region and the north to focus on seizing the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which pro-separatists -Moscow partly control since 2014.

As Russian forces further captured the two provinces, which together form Ukraine’s industrial region of Donbass, Ukrainian officials planned a counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied areas in the south.

The Ukrainian strike on the Dnipro River Bridge, the second in as many days, appeared intended to loosen Russia’s grip on the southern Kherson region.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of a Russian-installed temporary administration that rules the region, said the Ukrainian military struck Antonivskyi Bridge using US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers. The 1.4 kilometer (0.9 mile) bridge is the main crossing point of the river in the Kherson region, and the Russian army uses it to supply its forces. Stremousov said that due to the damage to the bridge, pontoons would be built across the river, also known as the Dnieper.

The head of the Moscow-appointed Kherson administration, Vladimir Saldo, said cars could continue to cross the bridge, but trucks could not and could instead use a roadblock 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.

At the start of the war, Russian troops invaded the Kherson region just north of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. They faced Ukrainian counterattacks, but largely held their ground.

Kherson – a shipbuilding site at the confluence of the Dnipro River and the Black Sea – is one of several areas a US government spokesman said Russia was trying to take over.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that US intelligence officials had evidence that Russia wanted to annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and all of Donbas by referendum as early as September.

In Zaporizhzhia, authorities installed by Russia claimed on Wednesday that the Ukrainian army had used drones to attack the local nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe. Vladimir Rogov, a Moscow-appointed local official, said three Ukrainian attack drones hit the plant’s territory with explosives, but not its reactor area. All normal operations continued and no radiation releases were detected, he said. Russian state news agency Tass reported that 11 factory workers were injured, four of them seriously. The news agency then quoted a Russian military official as saying the attack took place on Monday.

Ukrainian authorities, who have reported in recent months that Russian missiles nearly hit the plant, did not immediately comment on the report.

The bulk of Russian forces are fighting in the Donbass, where they have made slow progress in the face of Ukrainian resistance. The Russian military used long-range missiles to strike targets across Ukraine, killing hundreds of civilians.

Ukraine’s presidential office said at least 13 civilians were killed and 40 injured in Russian shelling across the country in 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Wednesday, at least three more people died when Russia bombarded the northeastern city of Kharkiv with Hurricane salvo rocket systems. The victims, who were waiting at a bus stop, included a 69-year-old man, his wife and a 13-year-old boy.

The boy’s 15-year-old sister was injured, according to the Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office. The video showed the boy’s father, apparently in shock, praying over his son’s uncovered body and holding his hand.

Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine of launching cross-border attacks. Another such report came on Wednesday, when Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that Ukrainian forces fired on two Russian border villages.

Most villagers had already been evacuated under a state of emergency, but Gladkov said the latest attack killed a man and damaged homes and a village club.

In other developments Wednesday:

– An Associated Press investigation has revealed that many Ukrainian refugees are forced to embark on a surreal journey to Russia, subjected to human rights abuses along the way, stripped of their documents and left confused and lost as to where they are.

— U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that Ukraine is effectively using U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers and will provide four more, bringing the total to 16. The truck-mounted HIMARS launchers fire GPS-guided missiles that can hit targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles).

– Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska appealed to US lawmakers during a speech at the US Capitol for more air defense systems to protect her country’s skies. In her ruthless speech on Capitol Hill, Zelenska shared images of bloodstained baby carriages and crumpled little bodies left behind after Russian missile attacks.

— European Union headquarters has proposed that member states reduce their natural gas consumption by 15% over the next few months to ensure that any complete Russian cut in natural gas supply will not cause disruptions unmanageable winter weather. While the initial cuts would be voluntary, the European Commission has also sought the power to impose mandatory cuts across the bloc in the event of a severe gas shortage or exceptionally high demand.

Zelenskyy, in a video address Wednesday night, said Europe should have reduced its dependence on Russian gas before. “If our position had been heard earlier,” he said, “we wouldn’t have had to look for urgent ways to fill the gap that Russia is artificially creating in the European market.”

— In a sign of the crippling economic impact of the war, the Ukrainian government has said it will ask investors to allow the country to defer payment of foreign debt for two years. Leaders of a group of creditors said they accepted the postponement and urged bondholders to do the same.


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