Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that Ukraine is preparing to launch attacks to recapture Crimea by forming new military units and sending troops to train in other countries.
“There are military steps, and we are preparing for them. We are ready mentally. We are preparing technically: with weapons, reinforcements, the formation of brigades, in particular the assault brigades, of different categories and nature,” Zelensky said at a press conference, according to the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform.
According to Ukrinform, Zelensky said Ukrainian troops were being sent to train in other countries to learn how to use new weapons. “We have to be ready. Then, there will be corresponding fair de-occupation steps and, God willing, they will be successful,” he added.
Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have maintained that kicking Russia out of Crimea is one of their war goals, but Russia controls a good portion of territory to the north of Crimea in the Kherson Oblast. The Pentagon has also assessed it’s unlikely Ukraine can take the peninsula, which Russia has controlled since 2014.
Despite the Pentagon’s assessment, Biden administration officials still say they would support Ukrainian attacks on Crimea. “Russia has turned Crimea into a massive military installation … those are legitimate targets, Ukraine is hitting them, and we are supporting that,” Victoria Nuland, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, recently said.
The US backing Ukrainian attacks on Crimea would risk a major escalation with Moscow, a fact that even Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recognized by calling the peninsula a “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader has shown a willingness to escalate the war over attacks on Crimea, as Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian infrastructure didn’t start until after the truck bombing of the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to the Russian mainland.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 following the US-backed coup in Kyiv that ousted former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Polling since then has shown the majority of people living on the peninsula are happy that they joined the Russian Federation.