Russia does not want to stop in Donbass

Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has changed its military objectives several times: after an initial period aimed at capturing the capital Kiev, after a series of complications and somewhat unexpected failures, it decided to focus exclusively on The occupation of two eastern enclaves that make up the wider Donbas region: Donetsk and Luhansk. It is not clear, however, whether the change in intent is permanent or temporary, subject to reassessment as the course of the military campaign progresses. For example, a widely circulated hypothesis in the Russian media is that the military may have pushed further south to completely cut off Ukraine’s access to the sea.

The latter goal was confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

Lavrov spoke about the matter An interview To the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, in which he said Russia was considering the possibility of advancing toward Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhia and Kherson regions “and various territories.” Lavrov said the decision on what to do would be a “continuing process,” although he indicated that, if possible, Russia would not stop at the Donbass. Also, Russia already controls parts of both regions.

Lavrov justified his intention to expand beyond the Donbass as a necessity dictated by the fact that “the geography has changed.” To the Russian Foreign Minister, the United States has sent long-range rocket missiles (The. Himars) to secure the territories occupied by the Russians, it was necessary to further advance the front line.

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Indeed, Lavrov’s words are nothing new, and Himars’ question seems to be an excuse after all.

On Russian talk shows, that is Bad terrorists, there has been talk for some time about seizing other parts of Ukraine besides the Donbass, particularly cutting off the country’s access to the sea. Various Russian political and media figures have been speaking openly for weeks without particular problems: Vladimir Soloviev, a popular host of public television, did so in a broadcast on Italian television. House to house.

Lavrov was not so clear: to completely cut off Ukraine’s access to the sea, the Russians would also have to seize part of the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions, although Lavrov spoke of “other territories” but did not specify. It can be busy. But the hypothesis, widely circulated among experts, that the Russians would try to seize the south of Ukraine if given the chance, is now almost accepted.

With the victory of the south, Russia will gain a very important advantage: it will annex the territory it controls to Transnistria. Pro-Russian republic on the territory of MoldovaIt would strengthen the position of the Crimean peninsula and greatly increase its access to the Black Sea.

Also, the loss of the southern territories would be a very serious damage to Ukraine, from which the country would struggle to recover: without an outlet to the sea, Ukraine would lose its most important economic districts and suffer enormous hardship. In exports, production of wheat and other foodstuffs, we have seen in recent months the destruction of ports due to war.

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Indeed, if Russia manages to conquer the south of Ukraine in addition to the east, it can be called a winner in every way: it will be a real victory, not just a facade. It would create massive and strategic regional conquests and cause irreparable damage to the Ukrainian economy and state. Ukraine would become a poorer, less dynamic country and be completely dependent on Western economic aid for years, while Russia could enjoy its new access to the Black Sea.

It is by no means certain that Russia will actually be able to implement these plans: according to many experts, it is actually not possible.

The conquest of the Ukrainian east is not yet complete (a large part of the Donetsk region is missing), and although Russian forces have stopped most of the offensive at this time, when the offensive resumes it will be difficult and obstacles that the Russian army has faced so far. The advance of the Russians would be slow and very costly in terms of men and means, and it would remain to be seen what state the army would be in before launching a serious offensive in the south. The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, could be significantly strengthened by the arrival of additional weapons from the West.

And it’s the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who are advancing south this time: for weeks the Ukrainian military has been waging a counteroffensive to retake the city of Kherson, with some limited success.

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