Can Ukraine Now Take Control Of Crimea? – Following the news that Ukraine had retaken vast swathes of its eastern territory from Russian soldiers over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy doubled down on his promise to push Russian invaders not just out of the recently claimed territories but out of Ukraine entirely.
Speaking through a translator to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, Zelenskyy said that the primary mission of his nation’s military is to “de-occupy our whole territory.”
“The main goal is de-occupation. We just cannot allow Russia to continue the same occupation that they started back in 2014,” he said.
It was yet another indication that Zelenskyy won’t be happy only to reclaim the territories taken by Russian soldiers in this year’s invasion but also the territory illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 – namely, the Crimean peninsula.
During the interview, Zelenskyy also referred to Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “cannibalism.”
“We have no other way, and it’s not our weakness. I believe it’s our strength, because Russia does not have a way out. They can go back home. We have only this home to defend,” he also said, before ending the interview with thanks to President Joe Biden and the “bipartisan support” from both parties for all the military aid and financial support provided so far.
Zelenskyy said that, without that support, Ukraine would not be able to push the Russians back across the border and “return our lands.”
Next 90 Days More Crucial Than 30 Years Of Independence
A day earlier, Zelenskyy told the annual meeting of the Yalta European Strategy that he sees his nation’s struggle over the next three months as more consequential and important than the last 30 years of Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union.
Zelenskyy predicted a “difficult winter for the whole world” and said that, despite Russia’s best efforts to break Ukraine’s resistance and the support provided by Europe, his military will persist.
“The 90 days ahead of us will be more crucial than 30 years of Ukraine’s independence,” Zelenskyy told the meeting. “90 days that will be more crucial than all the years of the existence of the European Union. This winter will determine our future.”
Can He Really Reclaim Crimea?
Zelenskyy has long asserted that he intends to reclaim Crimea. He did it early in his premiership, and he reiterated that intention again only three weeks ago during an address to the Crimea Platform Summit.
During the summit, attended by representatives of the G7 member states and dozens of other allies, Zelenskyy called for international support to achieve the goal.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Ukraine could see some successes on the peninsula, either. Not only is Russia quickly losing control of the land bridge established between Crimea and the Donbas, but the sinking of the Moskva – Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea – in April is still causing headaches for the Russian military.
In August, one Western official said on the condition of anonymity that the loss left the Russian military in the region unable to function, and that the Black Sea fleet was now effectively a “coast defence flotilla.”
“Neither side’s ground forces have sufficient concentrated ground combat power to launch effective offensive actions which would in any way materially affect the course of the war,” the official said in August. However, with the latest advances in the northeast and the southeast, Ukraine may just be in a better position to make an advance.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.