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A senior Russian general has revealed how 'Ukraine [is] only the beginning' of the invasion.
A Russian general has since revealed the Kremlin's next military goal is the Eastern European country of Moldova.
Moldova is a former Soviet republic and borders Ukraine and has a population over just over 2.6 million.
Russian troops are already reported as being within a breakaway region of the country called Transnistria.
The revelation follows a series of missile attacks on a port city in Ukraine called Odessa. The border of Moldova is just 55km from Odessa.
Moldova also borders Romania - a country which is part of the European Union (EU) - as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
It also comes after an announcement was made by the Russian Ministry of Defence surrounding its four main objectives in the next phase of the invasion, from 'taking over the Donbas,' to 'creating a land corridor from there to Crimea,' and 'blockading Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
The Kremlin's fourth objective was stated as being to take 'control of Southern Ukraine and [create] an exit to Transnistria'.
However, Russia isn't expected to attack Moldova until it's taken over the whole of Ukraine.
A pro-Kremlin commentator stated Putin's primary aim remains as being 'the gradual dismantling and phased reformatting of [Ukraine]'.
While it was previously thought Russia first attacked Ukraine to take over the eastern Donbas region and form a corridor to Crimea, on Friday 22 April, acting commander of Russia's Central Military District, Rustam Minnekaev explained the army is attempting to take over both east and south Ukraine.
"Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are cases of Russian-speaking people being oppressed," he said.
Moscow has armed and backed pro-Russian separatists and there are several thousand troops station in the region.
Moldova has denied the claims made by Minnekaev that it is oppressing Russian speakers in Transnistria.
"Such statements lead to an increase in tensions and mistrust," the country's bureau for reintegration policies said.
Ominously, the Russian fascist regime is threatening to "protect Russian speakers" in Moldova. That's one of the propaganda lies the Moskali used when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and when they expanded their war in Europe in February of this year.— Michael MacKay (@mhmck) April 22, 2022
Despite the invasion not having started as successful as Putin first anticipated, Russia has grown even more ruthless with its shelling, attacks on civilians and Putin's warning the country has successfully tested a new long-range missile.
Zelenskyy has also warned 'all countries' should be ready for Putin using nuclear weapons.
Moldova's foreign ministry stated its 'deep concern' of potentially being the next target for Russia.
It said: "[We] view these statements as unfounded and contradicting Russia’s position in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country within internationally recognised borders."
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information
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