Full control of southern Ukraine was a strategic goal to allow access to Moldova’s pro-Russian breakaway region of Transdniester, according to the acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, Rustam Minnekayev.
Minnekayev’s comments were the most detailed public description yet of Russia’s goals in the second phase of its invasion of Ukraine and were highlighted by Kyiv as a sign that the Kremlin has been lying with its previous statements that Moscow has no territorial ambitions.
Kyiv has also repeatedly warned that Transdniester could be used as a staging area for Russian operations against Ukraine or Moldova, which shares a border and a common history with NATO member Romania.
Transdniester is a sliver of territory that borders Ukraine where hundreds of Russian troops remain deployed over Chisinau’s objections.
Minnekayev said Russian speakers were oppressed in Transdniester. Moldova and Western leaders say that is untrue.
Moldova’s Foreign Ministry rejected the Russian statements as “unfounded” and summoned Moscow’s ambassador to express Chisinau’s “deep concern.”
“Moldova…is a neutral state and this principle must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation,” the ministry said in a statement.
Reported by RFE/RL