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2 Jan, 2024 04:20

Zelensky promises to 'cut off' Crimea in 2024

The Russian peninsula will become the conflict’s “center of gravity,” the Ukrainian leader told The Economist
Zelensky promises to 'cut off' Crimea in 2024

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has predicted that his country's armed forces will "isolate" Crimea in 2024. The region, which joined Russia in 2014 following a bloody nationalist coup in Kiev, hosts Moscow's Black Sea fleet.

Kiev will seek to cut off access to the peninsula by destroying the Kerch bridge, which connects it to the Russian mainland, Zelensky claimed. For this purpose, he once again demanded German-made long-range Taurus cruise missiles, which Berlin has so far refused to supply even after France and the UK provided Kiev with Storm Shadow missiles.

Zelensky blamed information leaks for the failure of Kiev’s much-hyped summer counteroffensive against Russia, but nevertheless shared new insights into the military’s top priorities for 2024, saying in an interview with The Economist that isolating Crimea is “extremely important.”

The Ukrainian president reiterated his ambitious goal of eventually restoring the country's 1991 borders, but stopped short of making any promises or setting timelines. The immediate goal, he said, will be “to defend the east” and protect Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

“Russia has to know that for us this is a military object,” he said.

According to President Vladimir Putin, Russian forces now hold the strategic initiative in the Ukraine conflict, while Kiev has largely been driven by political goals, with their efforts aimed at showing “their true masters at least some results.”

Zelensky also complained that the “mobilization of Ukrainian society and of the world” was much lower now than at the beginning of the conflict, admitting that any military success will depend on assistance from the West.

“Giving us money or giving us weapons, you support yourself. You save your children, not ours,” he claimed.

Kiev announced a general mobilization in February 2022, barring most men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country, but the campaign has been marred by corruption and draft dodging. Following Ukraine’s disappointing summer counteroffensive, which according to Moscow cost Kiev nearly 160,000 troops, Zelensky recently announced a plan to raise 500,000 more soldiers to replace battlefield losses.

“Mobilization is not just a matter of soldiers going to the front. It is about all of us. It is the mobilization of all efforts,” he told The Economist. “Let’s be honest, we have switched to domestic politics… If we continue to focus on domestic politics, we need to call elections. Change the law, the constitution. But forget about counteroffensive actions and de-occupation.”

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