Russia still set on ‘liberating’ annexed portions of Ukraine, says Kremlin

Russia says there is ‘a lot of work ahead’ to liberate the territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia

Maroosha Muzaffar
Friday 09 December 2022 04:25 GMT
War in Ukraine: Are Putin and Zelensky ready for peace talks?

The Kremlin said its forces still plan to “liberate” parts of Ukraine that Moscow annexed and claims are its own.

When Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was asked about the goals of Russia’s “military campaign” in Ukraine on Thursday, he said Russia still has to “liberate” parts of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

This comes after Moscow proclaimed it had annexed those four regions after holding so-called referendums in September. These referendums were rejected as bogus and illegal by Ukraine, the West and a majority of countries at the UN.

None of the provinces are fully under Russian control.

Mr Peskov was asked whether Russia planned to incorporate any more territories beyond the four regions.

“There is no question of that. At least, there have been no statements in this regard. But there is nevertheless a lot of work ahead to liberate the territories; in a number of new regions of the Russian Federation there are occupied territories that have to be liberated.”

“I mean part of the Donetsk Republic, as well as what became part of the Russian Federation, and then was re-occupied by Ukrainian troops,” he continued.

Last month, Russia’s army quit all the parts of Kherson province that it had controlled on the west bank of the Dnipro River, including the provincial capital, the city of Kherson. Ukraine had pushed Russian forces out of a small area of Luhansk province.

Ms Peskov also said the Kremlin was vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks on the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula after the Russian military downed a drone near its largest city.

“There are certainly risks because the Ukrainian side continues its policy of organising terrorist attacks. But, on the other hand, information we get indicates that effective countermeasures are being taken,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Russia was trying to “freeze” the war in Ukraine to prepare for “a bigger offensive next spring”.

“What we see now is Russia actually trying to have some kind of ‘freeze’ of this war at least for a short period of time so they can regroup, repair, recover,” Ms Stoltenberg added.

Separately, Russian president Vladimir Putin has warned that the nuclear risk was increasing and that Moscow will fight by “all available means at our disposal”.

“As for the idea that Russia wouldn’t use such weapons first under any circumstances, then it means we wouldn’t be able to be the second to use them either – because the possibility to do so in case of an attack on our territory would be very limited,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we have a strategy... namely, as a defence, we consider weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons – it is all based around the so-called retaliatory strike. That is, when we are struck, we strike in response.”

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