No agreement with US forbidding attack on Crimea – Kiev
Ukraine’s pledge not to attack Russian territory with Western-provided weapons does not cover Crimea, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov said on Tuesday.
Western nations have claimed that their supplies of advanced weapons to Ukraine were conditional on their non-use against targets in Russia, but officials in Kiev have long suggested that Crimea does not fall under that rule, as it considers the peninsula to be its own territory.
In an interview with US government-funded broadcaster Voice of America, Reznikov said the US has not objected to strikes on the territory, which Russia views as its own.
“We have an agreement with the US that we will not use weapons provided by the US and partners against the territory of the Russian Federation. But if we discuss de-occupying… Ukrainian land where the enemy is now, there are no such restrictions,” he said, after being asked about possible attacks against Crimea.
The minister stated that the limiting factor in such strikes would be the range of the weapons it receives from foreign allies. In the same interview, he expressed hope that Ukraine would soon receive MGM-140 ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles.
The Lockheed Martin-made projectiles can be fired by the M142 HIMARS and the M270 MLRS rocket systems, which Ukraine already has, and have a range of up to 300 km, significantly further than the types of ammunition provided by the US so far.
Crimea broke away from Ukraine after the 2014 armed coup in Kiev, which ousted the democratically elected government. Crimeans overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to join Russia, which accepted the bid and enshrined the peninsula’s new status in its constitution.
The move was not recognized by Kiev, which has said it will only seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis after defeating Russia militarily and ousting it from all captured territories, including Crimea.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has said it imposed restrictions on Ukraine, to avoid being directly dragged into a conflict with Russia. Some officials in both the US and Russia have asserted that the conflict in Ukraine is a NATO war with Russia by a proxy. Washington has said its goal in Ukraine is to achieve a strategic defeat of Moscow.