The West’s delivery of long-range weapons to Ukraine will expand the geographical tasks of the "special operation" of the Russian army beyond regions in eastern Ukraine, the Russian foreign minister said in an interview aired Wednesday.
“Now the geography is different,” Sergey Lavrov told Russian state-owned channel RT.
“This is far from being only the DPR and LPR” (Donetsk and Luhansk regions), he added, referring to two so-called “republics” in eastern Ukraine declared independent by Moscow this February, just before Russia launched its war in Ukraine.
“It is also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region and a number of other territories, and this process continues, and continues consistently and persistently,” he added, mentioning areas in southern and southeastern Ukraine.
Analysts have long said Russia wants to capture such areas to provide a bridge to Crimea, a key Ukrainian peninsula occupied by Russia since 2014.
As the West sends more long-range weapons into Ukraine, such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), the geographical objectives of Russian troops will move "even further" from the current line, Lavrov added.
“Because we cannot allow the part of Ukraine that (President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy, or whoever replaces him, will control to have weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territory of those republics that have declared their independence, those who want to determine their future on their own,” he stressed.
Russia has tried to justify its war, launched on Feb. 24, by alleging a “threat” from Ukraine to Russia, while also warning the West to not get involved in the war.
Western countries have not sent troops to Ukraine, but have sent weapons to help Ukraine fight off the war launched by its giant eastern neighbor.
Over 5,100 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, according to UN figures.
At least 16 million people in Ukraine have also been forced to flee their homes, including around 9.2 million that have fled to other countries