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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Friday that Russia’s invasion of his country was just the beginning, predicting Russian forces would become a threat to other countries in the region.
In a video address uploaded on Facebook and Telegram, Zelensky said Russia was preparing to move into a breakaway region of Moldova, a small country bordering Ukraine and Poland.
He alleged that Russian forces would use the same tactics it did with Ukraine, such using the protecting ethnic Russians as a pretext for invasion.
“This only confirms what I have said many times: The Russian invasion of Ukraine was intended only as a beginning,” Zelensky said. “They want to capture other countries.”
The president’s comments come after a Russian general said the military was planning to create a land bridge toward Transnistria in Moldova.
Rustam Minnekaev, the acting commander of the Central Military District, said Russian forces would first capture the Donbas, the industrial heartland of Ukraine’s east, and establish a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula.
Minnekaev said the military would then be able to forge a link to the Russian-declared breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova, according to Russian news outlet Interfax.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” Minnekaev said, according to the outlet.
Last month, a photo of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko standing in front of a battle map and pointing at Moldova appeared to show a planned invasion of the country.
Moldova is not part of the NATO and therefore is not protected under Article 5 of the alliance’s agreement. The article states that an attack against one member of NATO is an attack against all.
President Biden has repeatedly stated that the U.S. has a “sacred” obligation to honor Article 5 should Russia venture into other parts of Europe that are part of the alliance.
The U.S. has refrained from declaring a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing deeper and more violent involvement with Russia, a nuclear power. Ukraine is not part of NATO, but Biden and other world leaders have sent billions in military aid to the former Soviet state to fend off Russian forces.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, launching a full-scale assault on its neighboring country. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed he was “denazifying” Ukraine.
The war has entered a second phase. Russian forces were beaten back from the Capitol region around Kyiv to intensify an attack on the Donbas.
Zelensky on Friday said Ukraine would continue to fight Russia to “break this ambition of the Russian federation.”
“But all nations that believe in the victory of life over death must fight with us,” Zelensky said. “They have to help us, because we are first on this path.”