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Zelensky warned world leaders that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is ‘just the beginning’, amid concerns that the conflict could spill over the border and into Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria.
He said the ‘free world’ has the right to self-defence and Putin’s desire to destabilise Europe will mean Western leaders will help Ukraine with more weaponry.
It comes as Moscow accused the West of undermining European security by openly inciting Ukraine to strike Russia as Vladimir Putin threatened to respond ‘seriously’ to any further attack on Russian territory.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow that the West is ‘openly calling on Ukraine to attack Russia using weapons received from NATO countries’ while warning: ‘We do not recommend testing our patience.
Explosions inside Russia in recent weeks have destroyed fuel depots, ammo dumps and railways being used to reinforce its armies inside Ukraine.
Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility but says the incidents are payback, while Russia has taken umbrage at statements from NATO-member Britain that it is legitimate for Ukraine to target Russian logistics.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today warned that Vladimir Putin wants to ‘disband’ Europe and achieve a ‘global strike on democracy’ if the Russian strongman is not stopped
Emergency service employees work at the site of residential houses damaged by a missile attack, as Russia’s invasion continues, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Thursday
Following Zakharova’s bristling comments, Zelenksy wrote on Facebook: ‘In the free world, there are almost no people who would not understand that the war between Russia and Ukraine is just the beginning.
‘The final goal of Russia’s leadership is not just to capture the territory of Ukraine, but to disband the entire… eastern Europe and [achieve] a global strike on democracy.
‘So the free world has the right to self defence. And that’s why it will help Ukraine even more.’
His comments came after Putin said yesterday that any country deemed to be ‘interfering’ in Ukraine would meet with a ‘lightning-fast’ response using weapons ‘no one else can boast of’ – thought to be a reference to nukes.
The Kremlin said Western – and in particular British – attempts to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine threatened the security of Europe.
‘In itself, the tendency to pump weapons, including heavy weapons, to Ukraine and other countries are actions that threaten the security of the continent and provoke instability,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Sergei Naryshkin, the chief of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), accused the United States and Poland of plotting to gain a sphere of influence in Ukraine, the strongest signal from Moscow that the war could end with forced partition of Ukraine between the West and Russia.
Zelensky warned world leaders that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is ‘just the beginning’, amid concerns that the conflict could spill over the border and into Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria
A Ukrainian army soldier stands guard at the war damaged Irpinsky Lipky residential complex in Irpin on Thursday
Emergency workers remove the body of a man killed during a Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday
Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that if such attacks continued then Moscow would target decision-making centres in Ukraine, including those where it said Western advisers were helping Kyiv.
‘Kyiv and West capitals should take the statement from the Ministry of Defence seriously that further inciting of Ukraine to strike Russian territory will definitely lead to a tough response from Russia,’ Zakharova said.
Zakharova cast Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as a puppet of the West, who was being used by the United States to threaten Russia.
‘You are being used,’ Zakharova said.
The United States has ruled out sending its own or NATO forces to Ukraine but Washington and its European allies have supplied weapons to Kyiv such as drones, Howitzer heavy artillery, anti-aircraft Stinger and anti-tank Javelin missiles.
Total U.S. security assistance since the invasion amounts to about $3.7 billion (£2.8 billion), a U.S. official said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin casts such large arms shipments as part of a broader plan by the United States and its allies to destroy Russia – and has promised that it will never succeed.
Putin says the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine is necessary because the United States was using Ukraine to threaten Russia and Moscow had to defend against the persecution of Russian-speaking people.
He casts the conflict as an inevitable confrontation with the United States, which he accuses of threatening Russia by meddling in its backyard and enlarging the NATO military alliance.
Ukraine says it is fighting an imperial-style land grab and that Putin’s claims of genocide are nonsense. Zelensky has been pleading with U.S. and European leaders to supply Kyiv with heavier arms and equipment.
A wrecked car is seen in the city of Mariupol on April 26, amid Russian shelling
Since the Russian invasion force was driven back at the outskirts of Kyiv last month, Moscow has refocused its operation on eastern Ukraine, starting a new offensive to fully capture two provinces known as the Donbas.
Moscow’s generals have also said their aim is to push out from Kherson – on the Black Sea coast and the only major city to fall to Putin’s forces so far – and capture Mykolaiv and Odesa, cutting Ukraine off from the ocean.
Western nations have rallied to support Kyiv, with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declaring earlier this week that Ukraine will be given all the weapons it needs to ‘win’ the war and ‘weaken’ Russia to the point where it cannot attack again.
Liz Truss, British defence secretary, explicitly spelled out the victory condition in a speech last night – saying arms deliveries will ‘keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine’.
That would mean not just re-taking the parts of Ukraine Russia has occupied since Putin ordered the invasion in February this year, but re-taking the parts attacked and annexed since 2014 – namely Crimea and rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ms Truss argued that the war could last for ten years, but that the West must be prepared ‘for the long haul.’
If Putin succeeds in his war aims, she warned, then there will be ‘untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe’.
In signs that the conflict could soon spill over the border of Ukraine, Russia today described a series of blasts in the Transnistria region of Moldova – a breakaway province where it has a long-standing garrison of troops – as ‘alarming.’
Russia has been accused of planning hybrid attacks to ‘destabilise’ the region and Moldova’s pro-Western government after a series of explosions there prompted fears of Russia launching ‘false flag’ attacks to justify invading Transnistria.
Last week, Kremlin military chief Rustam Minnekayev said Russia sought control of southern Ukraine, which could provide access to Transnistria, ‘where there have been cases of oppression of the Russian-speaking population’.
Local boys Faddei and Oleksandr play in front of a church damaged during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the village of Kolychivka, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine, on Wednesday
Ukrainian and Moldovan officials have warned that Russia is planning hybrid attacks in Moldova that would mix both conventional attacks and novel forms of warfare as well as terrorist acts including indiscriminate violence and criminal disorder.
It comes after Moldova’s president Maia Sandu yesterday blamed ‘pro-war forces’ within Transnistria for a series of attacks in the region.
Two radio antennas were destroyed and a Moldovan military unit was targeted in an attack on Monday whilst several explosions hit the Ministry of State Security in the region on Tuesday.
Pro-Russian forces Transnistria also claimed shots were fired across the border towards a village housing a Russian arms depot after drones flew over from Ukraine, claims that have been slammed as a provocation by Kyiv.
Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, is recognised internationally as part of Moldova but is effectively controlled by Russia, which has given citizenship to separatists.
An estimated 1,500 Russian troops are permanently stationed in the Transnistria, but concerns are high that the region could be used as a launch pad for new attacks on Ukraine.