STORY: Moscow's military goals in Ukraine now go beyond the eastern Donbas region, where Russia initially claimed it wanted to defend breakaway Ukrainian provinces.
The shift was articulated on Wednesday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said that one reason RUSSIA might expand what it calls its "special operation" are the longer-range rockets and artillery the U.S. and NATO allies have been funneling to Ukraine, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to beat back the Russian invasion.
"That means the geographical tasks of the special operation will extend still further from the current line. Because we cannot allow the part of Ukraine that will be controlled by Zelenskiy, or whoever replaces him, to contain weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territory of the republics that have declared independence, those that want to determine their own future."
Lavrov's comments are the clearest acknowledgment yet that Russia's objectives have expanded over the five months of war.
"That's not a surprise to any of us, or anybody in Europe, or anybody around the globe."
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Lavrov's statement confirmed what Washington and its allies had suspected were Russian President Vladimir Putin's objectives all along.
"He has stated a number of times that this is just a limited operation, focused on the Donbass. His actions have proven otherwise."
After failing to capture the capital Kyiv at the outset of the invasion, Russia has shifted to a campaign of devastating bombardments to cement and extend its control of Ukraine's south and east.
On Wednesday, local officials said a Russian missile strike killed a 13-year-old boy waiting at a bus stop in the easter city of Kharkiv.
The boy's father clasped his dead son's hand.
A day earlier Russian strikes hit Kramatorsk, a city western officials believe will become one of the main focuses of Moscow's offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine says Russian forces have intensified long-distance strikes on targets far from the front, killing large numbers of civilians. Moscow says it is hitting military targets.
In a visit to Washington, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska appealed to U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday to provide more arms to her country.
"I am asking for weapons. Weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else's land but to protect one's home and the right to wake up alive in that home."