Ukraine “ready” to discuss Crimea with Russia if expected counteroffensive succeeds – FT

Kiev is ready to discuss the future of Crimea with Moscow if its forces reach the border of the Russian-occupied peninsula, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky told the “Financial Times”, according to News.ro.

Andrey Sibiha and BidenPhoto: Presidency of Ukraine/Ukrainian Press/ZUMA Press/Profimedia

The “Financial Times” notes that Zelensky’s deputy Andriy Sibiha’s statements represent the clearest statement of Ukraine’s interest in negotiations since Kiev broke off peace talks with the Kremlin in April last year.

Ukraine’s willingness to negotiate does not exclude the liberation of Crimea

“If we succeed in achieving our strategic objectives on the battlefield, while on the administrative border with Crimea, we are ready to open a diplomatic side to discuss this issue,” announced Andrei Sibiha, referring to the expected counterattack. Some time through Kiev.

“This does not mean that we are excluding the way to liberate (Crimea) by our army,” the Ukrainian official added.

Andriy Sibiha is an experienced diplomat who focuses on foreign policy in the presidential office and was with Zelensky during key moments of the war. He said the president and his advisers are now talking specifically about Crimea, as the Ukrainian military is closer to launching a counteroffensive to retake Russian-held territory.

Ukraine broke off talks with Moscow after the discovery of alleged war crimes committed by Russians in the Kiev suburb of Busia, and Zelensky signed a decree in September declaring talks with Putin impossible after the Kremlin annexed four Ukrainian provinces.

So far, Zelensky has rejected peace talks until Russian forces leave all of Ukraine, including Crimea.

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The Ukrainian president has repeatedly stated that his ultimate goal is to bring the entire territory of the country, including Crimea, under Kiev’s control. But in May last year, he hinted that Ukraine might consider a peace deal if Russian forces returned to positions in eastern Ukraine before last year’s invasion, and suggested that the Crimea issue could be resolved later through diplomacy.

Crimea has been under Russian occupation since February 2014 and was annexed by Moscow the following month after a sham referendum – a move internationally condemned as an illegal land grab.

Ukraine’s military will be on the border with Crimea in five or seven months

On the other hand, Myhailo Podoliak, an adviser to President Zelensky, told Radio Free Europe on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces would be “at Crimea’s doorstep” in “five to seven months”.

But some of Ukraine’s Western allies fear Putin may resort to tactical nuclear weapons to defend the peninsula, whose status the Kremlin says is non-negotiable. So Sibiha’s comments could ease the plight of Western officials who are skeptical of Ukraine’s ability to recover the peninsula and fear any attempt to do so militarily would prompt President Vladimir Putin to escalate the war, possibly with nuclear weapons, notes the Financial Times.

Follow the latest developments of the 406th day of the war in Ukraine in LIVETEXT on HOTNEWS.RO.

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