Armed Russian authorities force Ukrainians to vote in sham elections
A newly-promoted Russian army general says the invasion of Ukraine is a mere “stepping stone” to a bigger operation in Europe.
Fears of the conflict escalating have been ever-present since the start of the invasion in February 2022 – especially for countries that neighbor Ukraine and were once part of Soviet territory.
And days after he was promoted by Vladimir Putin, newly-appointed Colonel-General Andrey Mordvichev signaled he wouldn’t be opposed to extending the front past its current boundaries.
Mordvichev has been playing a key role in Ukraine as commander of the Central Military District and Russian Central Grouping of Forces in the occupied territories.
During an appearance on state-run Russia-1, the Colonel-General said he could see Putin’s war lasting for a long time and moving on to involve other European nations.
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He said: “I think there’s still plenty of time to spend. It is pointless to talk about a specified period.
“If we are talking about Eastern Europe, which we will have to, of course then it will be longer.”
Asked whether Ukraine was a “stepping stone” in a larger plan, the general said: “Yes, absolutely, it is only the beginning.”
Putin has long been accused of plotting to revive the long-collapsed Soviet Empire by bringing together its former territories into a unified block.
The Russian leader has repeatedly said he does not see Ukraine as an independent country and insisted the whole territory should be brought under Moscow’s control.
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Putin also claimed the “special operation” he launched over 18 months ago was an attempt to prevent NATO expansion and to protect Russian-speaking minorities in Ukraine from “genocide”.
His unsubstantiated stance has fueled concerns of new operations in Poland, Moldova as well as Latvia and Estonia.
The threat has pushed several Eastern European nations to strengthen their defenses and to contribute extensive military aid to Ukraine in the form of training and weapons.
And rather than convince Kyiv to give up NATO and EU aspirations, the invasion only strengthened Ukraine’s resolve to join both.
Finland and Sweden, whose governments remained on the fence on membership of the Atlantic alliance for years, both applied to join shortly after the invasion.
However, Russia’s ability to extend the conflict past Ukraine’s border has been challenged after it emerged Putin was turning to his North Korean allies to boost ammunition stocks.
Estimates say the reclusive and isolated Asian country has tens of millions of artillery shells and rockets that could give a huge boost to the Russian army.
US officials expect North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit Russia in the coming days to seal a possible deal on munitions transfer with Putin.
That would be a remarkable reversal from the 1950-53 Korean War, when the Soviet Union provided the communist North with weapons and ammunition.
White House officials believe Moscow’s reach for North Korean weapons is a reflection of Russian military problems.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the quality of North Korean weapons is an “open question”.
“It says a lot that Russia is having to turn to a country like North Korea to seek to bolster its defense capacity in a war that it expected be over in a week,” Sullivan said.
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