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Russian President Vladimir Putin had plans to take all of Ukraine, according to abandoned Russian documents which Ukrainian authorities reportedly found in the Ukrainian town of Trostyanets in Sumy Oblast.
The documents, which Ukrainian authorities said they found while investigating Trostyanets, a northeastern Ukrainian town Russian troops occupied for a month during the war, suggest that while Russia is currently focusing its attacks on the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, Putin’s ambitions lie far beyond the east.
“Investigators… found important documents of soldiers of the Russian Federation's Armed Forces that give a clear understanding that Russia was preparing to seize all the territory of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation Chief Oleksiy Sukhachev said in a statement. “All this information will be studied.”
The Russian forces that occupied Trostyanets had set up a headquarters in the town’s train station, according to France 24. The Russian military was using Trostyanets as a passage route to make way for tanks to head towards the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in an effort to seize the capital, The New York Times reported.
But the Russian military met a flurry of resistance from the Ukrainians on the way, and eventually backed off their plans to take the capital, making the plans to pass through Trostyanets transform into more of an occupation. As Russian forces regrouped and refocused their invasion on Eastern Ukraine, Ukrainians liberated the town.
The Daily Beast has not independently verified the documents.
But Putin’s alleged plans to occupy all of Ukraine appear to confirm assessments from western nations and U.S. intelligence officials that the Kremlin’s plans in Ukraine have been expansive and aimed at taking over more than just Eastern Ukraine.
When Putin launched the invasion in February, he announced a “special military operation” aimed at Eastern Ukraine. But the announcement masked his true aims, according to U.S. intelligence community assessments. His aim was to take Kyiv swiftly and in a matter of days, CIA Director Bill Burns said in testimony on Capitol Hill in March.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has assessed that Putin planned to control all of Ukraine entirely.
“We have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order,” NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in April.
Even Russian military leaders have admitted their goals in Ukraine are greater than the current fight in Eastern Ukraine and that they want “full control” of both the east and southern portions of Ukraine.
“Since the beginning of the second stage of the special operation… one of the tasks of the Russian army has been to take full control of Donbas and southern Ukraine,” Central Military District Commander Rustam Minnekayev said in late April. “That will ensure the opening of a land corridor to Crimea and influence critical elements of the Ukrainian economy.”
And while Russian forces had to refocus their efforts on just the eastern regions of Ukraine following a series of fumbles and logistical errors in efforts to take Kyiv and attack in the west of Ukraine, Putin will not be ending the fight in Eastern Ukraine, in all likelihood, top U.S. intelligence officials are warning this week. Just Tuesday, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told lawmakers in a brief that Putin has his sights set on other regions beyond Eastern Ukraine.
“We assess President Putin is preparing for prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” Haines said.
A senior U.S. defense official said in a call Tuesday that Putin may not have given up entirely on his original aims in Ukraine.
“It’s not clear to us the degree to which any of Mr. Putin's strategic objectives have changed,” the senior official said. “We don't know that he's given up on Kyiv particularly.”