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15 Jan, 2024 13:34

Kiev restates goal of retaking Crimea

Ukraine aims to restore its 1991 borders despite having failed to push back Russian troops last year, according to its defense chief
Kiev restates goal of retaking Crimea

Kiev still plans to retake all of the territory it has lost to Russia over the past decade, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umarov has insisted. His comments come after admissions that the country’s much-touted counteroffensive last year failed to overcome Russian defenses.

Speaking alongside several other senior Ukrainian officials at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Sunday, Umarov was asked to comment on reports that the US is disappointed with Kiev’s military strategy for 2024.

The defense minister would neither confirm nor deny the allegation, stressing only that the West continues to support Ukraine. Umerov also noted that Kiev’s “strategic objective is… to get to the 1991 borders.” 

This would entail retaking the Crimean Peninsula, which voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in 2014 after the leaders of a Western-backed coup in Kiev scrapped local language rights. It would also involve wresting control of four other regions which voted to become part of Russia in the autumn of 2022.

Umerov also noted that Ukraine always coordinates its military goals with its Western sponsors. At the same time, he would not provide any details on the 2024 strategy, saying that only Ukraine and its partners are privy to it.

In late December, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said that the military had presented him with a plan for 2024, without providing any details. He only said that this year will be a time of “global decisions” that Ukraine must be able to influence to achieve its goals, adding that Kiev plans to ramp up military production.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported last week that the US, Kiev’s main backer, wanted Ukraine to “sharpen” its plan for 2024. Washington was reportedly concerned about the growing rift between Zelensky and Ukraine’s top general Valery Zaluzhny, which was said to be slowing efforts to develop a comprehensive approach to the fighting. One of the visible points of friction was Zaluzhny’s November article for The Economist, in which he said that the conflict with Russia had reached a “stalemate”.

The reported division regarding strategy comes amid admissions that Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which started in early June 2023, failed to gain any significant ground. Moscow has called Kiev’s losses catastrophic, estimating that it had suffered around 160,000 casualties since the start of the push and 383,000 since the start of the conflict in February 2022.