Lavrov says Russia’s objectives in Ukraine have widened, no longer limited to Donbas

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July 20 (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that the geographical objectives of Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine are no longer limited to the eastern Donbas region but include a number of other territories, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Lavrov added that Russia’s objectives will expand still further if the West delivers long-range weapons to Kyiv.

In Other Developments:

Russian forces shelled eastern and southern Ukraine on Wednesday after Washington said it saw signs Moscow was preparing to formally annex territory it has seized during nearly five months of war. 

DIPLOMACY

* The White House said, citing intelligence, that Russia was seeking to annex Ukrainian territory by installing proxy officials and establishing the rouble as the currency in Russian-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine. The Russian embassy in Washington dismissed the comments as “fundamentally false”. 

* On Wednesday, in his first trip outside the former Soviet Union since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Putin held talks in Tehran with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and met NATO-member Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan. 

* In Tehran, Putin said Moscow had not seen any desire from Kyiv to fulfil what he described as a preliminary peace deal agreed to March. 

* There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian government. Talks with Russia did take place in March but no apparent breakthrough was made.

* The United States and allies could potentially help build a future Ukrainian air force by training pilots, the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff told Reuters. 

FIGHTING

* Ukrainian shelling badly damaged the crucial Antonivskyi bridge in the Russia-controlled Kherson region of southern Ukraine, Moscow-installed regional authorities said.

* Russia’s offensive in Ukraine’s Donbas region continues to make minimal gains as Ukrainian forces hold the line, British military intelligence said.

*U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday that the United States will send four additional high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine.”(We) will keep finding innovative ways to sustain our long-term support for the brave men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces and we will tailor our assistance to ensure that Ukraine has the technology, the ammunition and the sheer firepower to defend itself,” Austin said at the start of a virtual meeting with allies on Ukraine.

ECONOMY

* Russian gas flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline are likely to restart on time on Thursday after the completion of scheduled maintenance but at lower than its full capacity, two Russian sources familiar with the export plans told Reuters.

* Putin said Nord Stream 1’s capacity could be further reduced due to slow progress in equipment maintenance.

* The European Union will set out emergency plans to reduce gas demand within months, warning countries they could struggle for fuel during winter if Russia cuts off deliveries.

* Ukraine intends to postpone payments on its Eurobonds for 24 months from Aug. 1, a government resolution showed.

* In Tehran, Putin discussed with Erdogan the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea – currently blockaded by Russia forces. 

* Russia’s communications watchdog said it was taking steps to punish the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts online encyclopedia Wikipedia, for violating Russian law around the conflict in Ukraine. 

Photo – A cat looks at a Ukrainian tank that was destroyed during Russian attacks, in Hostomel, Ukraine. Hostomel, Irpin as well as other towns and villages in the northern part of the Kyiv region became battlefields and were heavily shelled when Russian troops tried to reach the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in February and March 2022. EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY

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