When Gen. Rustam Minnekayev made a bold statement on Friday that Russia's next military aim would be to seize Ukraine's entire southern coast, many analysts were skeptical, based not only on the claim, but on its source.
Why would a relatively obscure military figure announce such a major shift in policy, rather than President Vladimir V. Putin, who usually makes such pronouncements, or Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu, or Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov, the chief Russian commander for the war in Ukraine?
General Minnekayev's official job is the organization of political propaganda work in the army's central district, which comprises a vast territory from the Volga basin to eastern Siberia. His duties normally wouldn't involve formulating military strategy.
He told a gathering of arms industry representatives in Yekaterinburg — more than 1,000 miles away from the fighting — that Russia was trying to capture a swath of Ukrainian territory from the Donbas region to Moldova. General Minnekayev said that Russia would be allowed to influence critical elements of the Ukrainian economy and gain another point of access to the pro-Russian enclave of Moldova known as Transnistria because Ukraine would have access to the Black Sea.