A Ukrainian official said Thursday that Kyiv’s goal of kicking Russia out of Crimea hasn’t changed after an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested Ukraine might be open to negotiating the issue.
“Ukraine will choose the way to bring Crimea back, using political and military means,” Tamila Tasheva, Zelensky’s envoy for Crimea, told POLITICO.
Andriy Sybiha, the deputy of Zelensky’s office, said a day earlier that Kyiv would be “ready” to negotiate over Crimea if it launches a successful counteroffensive up to the peninsula’s borders. The comments were the first sign Kyiv might rethink its position that peace talks can only happen when Russia is expelled from the territory.
But Tasheva said Russia will only be given two options: leave or be driven out. “To minimize Ukrainian military losses, minimize threats to civilians who live in occupied territories, as well as the destruction of civilian infrastructure, Ukraine plans to give Russia a choice on how to leave Crimea. If they don’t agree to leave voluntarily, Ukraine will continue to liberate its land by military means,” she said.
Ukraine’s Western backers doubt that Kyiv has the ability to take the Crimean peninsula by force, and Russia still controls a sizeable portion of territory to the north of the peninsula. A full-blown offensive against Crimea also risks a major escalation from Moscow.
Crimea has been under Russian control since 2014, and polling has shown since then that most Crimeans are happy they’re part of the Russian Federation.