Kiev is relying on military solution for Crimea – official
Ukraine is now relying on a military means when it comes to “returning” Crimea, the Ukrainian presidential representative for the region, Tamila Tasheva said on Friday, explaining that the Russian military offensive has prompted Kiev to largely leave behind its diplomatic strategy for the peninsula’s “deoccupation.”
In an interview with Ukraine 24 TV, Tasheva said that “in any case, with any plans, the military will be the first to enter the territory of Crimea.”
“The question of Crimea, the approach to returning the territory changed after February 24. We understand that, in any case, we now rely primarily on the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Tasheva said.
She added that Kiev’s “unambiguous key position” is to ensure the return of the country’s territories, including Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk regions, to the borders of 1991, “without any ultimatums for the Ukrainian side.” She admitted that some of Ukraine’s partners are encouraging Kiev to go for compromises - something that, according to Tasheva, the country’s government is not prepared for.
When asked what would happen to the Russian citizens living in Crimea, Tasheva stressed that she “wouldn’t talk about ‘cleansing’ but would rather talk about people who are illegally staying on our territory.” She claimed that, in accordance with Ukrainian law and international norms, the Russians who arrived in Crimea after 2014, could be expelled from the peninsula.
Tasheva’s remarks came a day after Ukraine’s Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov said that Kiev, using US-supplied weapons, is going to “liberate” all land lost to Russia, including Crimea.
The region, which voted overwhelmingly in a 2014 referendum to reunite with Russia, “is a strategic objective for Ukraine because it’s Ukrainian territory,” Reznikov told CNN. “But we will move step by step,” he added.
The first stage in Kiev’s plan is to stabilize the situation on the ground, according to Reznikov. During the second stage, Russian forces would be pushed back to the lines they occupied before the ongoing military operation. The minister stressed that only after that would Kiev be able to begin discussions with its foreign partners on “how to liberate territories.”
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also vowed to “liberate” Crimea and the Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR), which are recognized by Russia as independent states.
So far Russian forces, which have an overwhelming advantage in artillery and other arms, are steadily gaining land in Donbass.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.