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Russia Declares Expanded War Goals Beyond Ukraine's Donbas

PARIS, France - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow's military 'task' in Ukraine now went beyond the eastern Donbas region, in the cleared acknowledgment yet that it has expanded its war goals.

In an interview with state media nearly five months after Russia's invasion, the foreign minister also said peace talks made no sense at the moment because Western governments were leaning on Ukraine to fight rather than negotiate.

Ukraine's foreign minister retorted that Russia wanted 'blood, not talks'.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb.24, President Vladimir Putin explicitly denied any intention of occupying his neighbour. He said that his aim was to demilitarise and 'denazify' Ukraine - a statement dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a pretext for an imperial - style war of expansion.

But Lavrov said geographical had changed since Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held peace talks in Turkey in late March that failed to produce any breakthrough.

At that time, he said, the focus was on the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR), self - styled breakaway entities in eastern Ukraine from which Russia has said it aims to drive out Ukrainian government forces.

'Now the geography is different, it's far from being just the DPR and LPR, it's also Kherson and Zaporizhzia region and a number of other territories', he said, referring to areas well beyond the Donbas that Russia has wholly or partly seized.

'The process is continuing logically and persistently'.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytreo Kuleba responded: 'By confessing dreams to grab more Ukrainian land, (the) Russian foreign minister proves that Russia rejects diplomacy and focuses on war and terror. Russian want blood, not talks'.

Lavrov said Russia might need to push even deeper if the West, out of 'important rage' or desire to aggravate the situation further, kept pumping Ukraine with long - range weapons such as the U.S. - made High Mobility Rochet Systems (HIMARS).

'That means the geographical tasks will still further from the current line', he said.

Russia could not allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensiy ;or whoever replaces him' to threaten its territory or that of the DPR and LPR with the longer - range systems, he said - referring casually, and without any evidence, to the possibility that the Ukrainian leader might not remain in power.

After failing to take the Ukrainian capital Kyiv at the war, Russia said in March it would focus on 'achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas'.



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