Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia intends to maintain control over broader regions beyond eastern Ukraine, including Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces in the south, and other areas. He made these statements on state-controlled television and a news agency after Ukrainian troops fired a bridge essential to the supply of Russian forces operating in southern Ukraine.
Lavrov’s remarks on Russia’s plans to occupy more territories and the Ukrainian missile attack on the strategically vital bridge in the Kherson region hinted that the nearing five-month-long war could spread to other parts of the country.
Since Russian forces captured more of the two provinces that comprise Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region, Ukrainian officials planned an offensive to retake Russian-occupied areas in the south. The Ukrainian attack on the Dnipro River bridge also weakened Russia’s stronghold on the southern Kherson territory.
According to Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of a temporary administration formed by Russia to manage the region, the Ukrainian military attacked the Antonovsky Bridge utilizing HIMARS multiple rocket launchers supplied by the US. The Russian army uses the bridge, which spans 1.4 kilometers or 0.9 miles, as the primary river crossing in the Kherson region to supply their troops. Due to the damage sustained by the bridge, pontoons would be installed over the waterway, also known as the Dnieper. The bridge could still be used for foot traffic and light vehicles, but heavily laden transports or tanks would probably collapse the weakened span. The fact that Ukraine did chose not to destroy this important piece of infrastructure completely strongly suggests they believe they will have it back under their control intact at some point.
As the attack happened, Lavrov said, “Now, [our] geography is different. It is not only the DNR and LNR, but it is also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region and a number of other territories.” He also connected the alteration in objectives to the West’s provision of arms to Kyiv. With weapons supplied to Russia from various allied forces, he noted that Russia cannot embrace the fact that in the regions of Ukraine under Zelensky’s control are arms systems that will pose a “direct threat” to Russia’s jurisdiction as well as the “territory of those [eastern Ukrainian] republics that have announced their independence.”
He said, “If Western countries supply long-range weapons to Ukraine, [these goals] will move even further.”
Since June, the US has been supplying Ukraine with HIMARS medium-range rocket systems, which have enabled the country to launch more frequent and precise attacks against Russian sites in the combat lines. The Biden administration has been reluctant to provide the longer range (150km) GMLRS rocket for Ukraine’s HIMARS launchers out of concern Ukraine might fire them into Russian territory to strike at locations where Iskander cruise missiles are being fired into Ukraine. These extended-range precision-guided missiles offer a great advantage in stand-off capability.If Ukraine placed a HIMARS on the deck of a small cargo ship in the Black Sea, these precision-guided missiles with extended range could attack Russian navy ships in the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, which Russia considers as part of its territory.
HIMARS have arrived to Ukraine.
Thank you to my 🇺🇲 colleague and friend @SecDef Lloyd J. Austin III for these powerful tools!
Summer will be hot for russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them. pic.twitter.com/BTmwadthpp
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) June 23, 2022
The US Warning
General Mark Milley, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, indicated that the Donbas region had not yet been completely taken over by Russian forces. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that the US would provide Ukraine with four new HIMARS.
Additionally, White House national security spokesman John Kirby warned Russia of “laying the groundwork” to annex Ukrainian territory it gained since the beginning of the war. He cited intelligence from the US in support of his accusation. However, the Russian Embassy in the US of America stated that the “remark” was an inaccurate portrayal of what Moscow attempted to do.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the exile of millions more, and the leveling of entire cities, mainly in Russian-speaking regions in the east and southeast of Ukraine. As a result, global energy and food prices have soared, including fears of starvation in less developed nations since Ukraine and Russia are both significant grain producers. What Russia is holding in Ukraine is not prime territory anymore but a near wasteland that they will have to rebuild almost from the ground up.
With the offensive strikes made by Russia in Ukraine over the past months, the only weapon made by Ukraine’s allied forces aside from the provision of weapons is imposing sanctions on Russia. Among the restrictions imposed on Russia were: a ban on all Russian planes departing from the airspace of the US, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada; the export of dual-use commodities, which are items that can be used for either civilian or military purposes; for example, vehicle parts. Many foreign businesses, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Marks & Spencer, have also pulled out of the Russian market or discontinued their operations. There was an estimate that due to these sanctions, the Russian economy will contract by ten percent in 2022, concurrent with the onset of a severe recession.
For Russia, expanding the conflict to other areas of Ukraine or other countries is probably well beyond their means and ability right now. Where Russia meets Ukrainian resistance their progress is measured in hundreds of yards per day at great cost to them in men and material they cannot easily replace.