Russian military commander Rustam Minnekaev met with the Union of Defense Industries on Friday (April 22) and said the country was now in the second phase of President Vladimir Putin's "special operation," with the intention to "establish full control over the Donbras and southern Ukraine."
"This will provide a land corridor to the Crimea, as well as influence the vital objects of the Ukrainian economy,” Minnekaev said, as reported by the Russian state-owned Interfax, via the Daily Beast. “Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population.”
Transnistria is a separatist region of Moldova and hasn't officially gotten involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, despite having hosted a Russian military base since the 1990s.
Minnekaev's comment also suggests that Moldova's border would be prone to a similar threat as Russian expansion continues, having already struck down hundreds in neighboring Ukraine.
Putin announced his country would conduct military operations in Eastern Ukraine during an NBC News translation of a speech addressing the Russian population in Moscow on February 24.
The announcement appeared to serve as the final action ahead of an attack by Putin and the Russian military, which the U.S. and European allies to the neighboring Ukraine have attempted to prevent from taking place through diplomatic discussions.
A Ukraine interior minister confirmed to NBC News via text message that "cruise and ballistic missile strikes" were already underway shortly after Putin's announcement.
More than 1,000 protesters were reportedly arrested during anti-war protests throughout Russia amid President Putin's announcement to conduct military operations and ensuing attack on Ukraine, BNO News reported.