Russian troops are seizing more cities in the Donbass, but Putin is far from having achieved his goals. New testimony from a trusted Kremlin official reveals the real plans of the ruler.

Russian forces continued to advance in Ukraine’s Donbass region on Tuesday, specifically targeting the city of Sloviansk: Mayor Vadym Liakh reported “massive” Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city. At least two people were killed, according to Ukrainian sources.

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The city has been under rocket fire for days. After capturing the nearby city of Lysychansk, Russian forces are advancing in the Donbass toward Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the two largest cities in the region still under Ukrainian control.

So the Russian troops are advancing further in eastern Ukraine and will apparently not stop at the rest of the country either. In any case, these are the Kremlin’s territorial aspirations, writes the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a recent analysis. The American think tank has once again come to the conclusion that Putin’s plans for conquest extend far beyond the Donbass.

Reason for this assumption: The recent statement by Putin confidante Nikolai Patrushev. The secretary of the Russian Security Council and former head of the domestic intelligence agency FSB said on Tuesday that the Russian military operation in Ukraine will continue until Russia achieves its goals. These are to protect the Ukrainian civilian population from “genocide”, to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine should commit to permanent neutrality between Russia and NATO.

Patrushev is repeating Putin’s rhetoric. At the beginning of the war he had claimed that the invasion of Ukraine was aimed at protecting the civilian population from humiliation and genocide. The Kremlin ruler also used the terms “demilitarize” and “denazify”. According to the ISW experts, the fact that Patrushev used the same wording five months later shows one thing above all: the most recent Russian territorial gains in eastern Ukraine are not enough for Putin. He wants his troops to keep advancing. This is how Russia is supposed to achieve the original goals of the “special operation”.

Patrushev’s statements indicate that the Kremlin is preparing for a protracted war. The intention is still to capture much larger parts of Ukraine, the ISW concludes. Given Patrushev’s close relationship with Putin and his role in the Kremlin, it is very unlikely that his public statements will deviate much from the position of the Russian President.