Russia has said its military targets in Ukraine have extended beyond the industrial region of Donbass as its forces unleash deadly artillery shelling in the east and south of the country.
The warning came as the European Commission urged EU countries to reduce demand for natural gas in order to reduce dependence on Russian energy and avoid Moscow’s energy “blackmail”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Moscow’s military was no longer focused “only” on seizing control of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine, which had been partially controlled by pro-Moscow rebels for years.
“The geography is different now. We are talking not only about the DPR and LPR, but also about the Kherson region, the Zaporozhye region and a number of other territories, ”he explained to the state media.
Since the February 24 invasion, Russian forces have steadily advanced into each of these regions and sowed destruction, capturing key cities and meeting fierce Ukrainian resistance.
The steady eastward advance came after Muscovite troops failed to capture the capital Kyiv at the start of the invasion and were driven back from Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city.
But Russian artillery outside the city’s eastern hub nonetheless fired almost continuously, and three people were killed in attacks on Kharkiv on Wednesday, local officials said.
Western weapons pose a ‘direct threat’ to Russia
“Among them was a 13-year-old boy,” Oleg Sinegubov, the governor of the region, said on social networks.
AFP journalists who arrived at the scene saw a man kneeling in shock over the body, wearing a blue sweatshirt and surrounded by shards of broken glass.
Meanwhile, in the southern city of Nikopol, two people were killed in a Russian shelling of a residential area, authorities said.
While the brunt of the fighting in Ukraine in recent months has been concentrated in the Donbas, the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south is slowly reclaiming some Russian-held territory.
Ukraine and military analysts believe Western long-range artillery has changed battlefield dynamics, and Russian officials have taken note.
Lavrov said on Wednesday that Western arms sales to Ukraine played a role in Moscow’s decision to focus beyond the east, and said its ambitions could be further expanded if supplies continue.
“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. . to Donetsk and Lugansk.
Energy plans for emergencies
Mykolaiv, the largest city under Ukrainian control near Russian-occupied Kherson and the Southern Front, has been under constant artillery fire since the beginning of the invasion.
The regional governor on Wednesday announced that the city would be closed “for a day or two” in a few weeks to process information about people allegedly collaborating with Russian forces.
A day earlier, Gov. Vitaliy Kim offered a $100 reward to anyone who helps identify individuals collaborating with Russia by providing the location of Ukrainian troops or the coordinates of potential targets.
The announcement came after Zelenskiy fired several senior law enforcement officials in Kyiv, including the head of the security service, accusing their agencies of failing to crack down on Kremlin spies and supporters.
The West has responded to the Russian invasion with several packages of damaging sanctions, which in turn led Russia to cut natural gas supplies to the bloc, triggering a supply and price crisis.
In announcing a contingency plan on Wednesday, the European Commission asked EU countries to cut demand by 15 percent to ensure enough supplies ahead of winter.
The EU commissioners also asked member states to grant Brussels special powers to impose mandatory energy rationing if Russia blocks Europe from the gas pipeline.