Ukraine drops big hint at talks over Crimea after major spring offensive

Kyiv, Ukraine - Ukraine may consider holding talks with Russia over Crimea after Kyiv's long-planned spring offensive, according to a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine may consider holding talks with Russia over Crimea – which was annexed in 2014 – after Kyiv's long-planned spring offensive.
Ukraine may consider holding talks with Russia over Crimea – which was annexed in 2014 – after Kyiv's long-planned spring offensive.  © Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

"If we will succeed in achieving our strategic goals on the battlefield and when we will be on the administrative border with Crimea, we are ready to open [a] diplomatic page to discuss this issue," the deputy head of Zelensky's office, Andriy Sybiha, was quoted as saying in the Financial Times on Thursday.

"It doesn't mean that we exclude the way of liberation [of Crimea] by our army," he added.

Ukrainian presidential office adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stressed that any such talks would not be about territorial concessions.

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Podolyak said that "real negotiations" with Moscow could only take place after the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014 – reiterating Zelensky's position.

Fears over use of nuclear weapons

Ukrainian troops are expected to launch a major offensive this spring to retake Russian-held territory.
Ukrainian troops are expected to launch a major offensive this spring to retake Russian-held territory.  © REUTERS

Sybiha's comments were Kyiv's first indication of a possible dialogue since it broke off ceasefire talks a year ago, the newspaper wrote.

Military experts expect an offensive by Ukrainian troops this spring to retake Russian-held territory. The most likely direction of attack is a move in the south of the country towards the coast in order to drive a wedge through Russian forces there.

However, it's unclear whether the weapons supplied to Ukraine by the West will be sufficient to ensure the success of such an operation.

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Given Russia's strong military presence in Crimea, Western military experts fear that this could lead to a major escalation of the war and even provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons, some of which have been moved into neighboring Belarus.

Moscow considers the strategically important peninsula to be its own territory and has always stressed that it would defend Crimea with all means at its disposal.

Cover photo: Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

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