The US fears that Russia will set up a land corridor to the breakaway region of Moldova

The US intelligence chief said Mr Putin will not end the campaign in Donbass anytime soon, but wants to create a land corridor connecting Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region.

“We believe that President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a protracted conflict and that his goals are not limited to the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine,” Avril Haines, director of US National Intelligence, said during today’s congressional hearing.

According to Haines, next month’s developments will be very important as Russian forces try to attack in Donbass. However, the intelligence official said that the fighting will not end even if Russia succeeds in its goal in Donbass.

“In the near future, Putin will control the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine and the city of Kherson in the south, and may want to create a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Transnistria,” Haines said. Transnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova where Russia maintains a permanent peacekeeping force.

But US intelligence believes that in order for Putin to link up with Transnistria, he must issue a general mobilization order to mobilize more forces, which he has not done so far.

President Putin addresses the Council of Russian Legislators on April 27.  Photo: AFP.

President Putin addresses the Council of Russian Legislators on April 27. Picture: AFP.

The US intelligence chief also said that the conflict in Ukraine could become “more unpredictable and escalating” in the coming months if the military capabilities of the Russian armed forces struggle to meet set goals.

“We expect that this situation will trigger a more important decision-making phase for Russia, both in terms of domestic policy adjustments needed to sustain the operation and the conflicts with Ukraine and the West,” she said.

However, US intelligence does not believe that Putin will use nuclear weapons unless there is an existential threat to Russia. At the same time, they also said that the future of negotiations between the two countries is very uncertain.

“With both Russia and Ukraine believing they can continue to make military advances, we see no viable avenue for negotiation, at least in the short term,” Haines said.

Transnistria is a narrow country between the Dniester River and the Moldova-Ukraine border with a population of more than 500,000. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the region demanded secession from Moldova, which sparked a military conflict in March 1992 and ended in a ceasefire in July 1992.

The separatist government in Transnistria is recognized only by three other self-breakaway regions: Abkhazia, Artsakh and South Ossetia. The Russian military has not deployed more than 1,500 peacekeepers in the region since 1993.

In mid-April, General Rustam Minnekayev, acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, announced that the second phase of the military special operation in Ukraine also aims to open the way to the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, where he believes that “the Russian-speaking community is oppressed”.

Breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova, bordering Ukraine.  Graphics: Time.co.uk.

Breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova, bordering Ukraine. Graphic:time.co.uk.

than tam (Corresponding AFP, CNN)