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Russia says its military in Ukraine expanding focus, cites Western weapons supply

Foreign Minister Lavrov says forces will now deal with targets beyond country’s east because of new threat posed by arms given to Ukrainians

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, July 8, 2022. (Willy Kurniawan/Pool Photo via AP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, July 8, 2022. (Willy Kurniawan/Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia’s military aims in Ukraine are no longer focused “only” on the country’s east, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, adding that supplies of Western weapons had changed the Kremlin’s calculus.

“The geography is different now. It is not only about the DNR and LNR, but also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region and a number of other territories,” Lavrov told state media in an interview published Wednesday.

“This process is continuing, consistently and persistently.”

The pro-Moscow breakaway so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) are in east Ukraine.

Moscow’s forces already control the southern Kherson region and parts of the southeastern region Zaporizhzhia.

Lavrov said that while Moscow’s aim remains the same — “denazification and demilitarization” of Ukraine — the “geography” has changed since Istanbul talks between Moscow and Kyiv in March 2022.

He said Western supplies of weapons to Kyiv including US-made HIMARS missile systems had made Moscow review its plans.

A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at its intended target during the African Lion military exercise in Grier Labouihi complex, southern Morocco, June 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Lavrov said Russia’s “geographical aims will move even further from the current line” if the West continues to “pump” Ukraine with weapons.

“We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that (President Volodymyr) Zelensky will control or whoever replaces him to have weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territory of those republics that have declared their independence,” Lavrov said.

After failing to take the capital Kyiv at the start of its attack on Ukraine, Russia has focused its military offensive on the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Moscow declared full control of Luhansk in early July.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

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