Ukraine approves strategy to ‘reclaim’ Crimea, threatening all-out war with Russia

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced this week that the country’s National Security and Defense Council has approved a strategy to reclaim Crimea and return to the strategically important peninsula.

Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula, was annexed by Russia in March 2014, following a far-right US-backed coup in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Map of the Black Sea region

Announcing the decision on Twitter, Kuleba wrote: “The signal is clear: we are not only calling on the world to help us return to Crimea, Ukraine is deploying its own dedicated and systemic efforts under the president. [Volodymyr] Zelensky’s leadership. “

As part of his “3 pillars” strategy to take over Ukraine, Kuleba notably declared that Zelensky’s administration was seeking “full Ukrainian sovereignty” not only over Crimea, but also over the port city of Sevastopol, which serves as the headquarters of the Russian Navy. Maritime fleet.

Following Kuleba’s comments, Ukrainian President Zelensky announced via Twitter the creation of a Crimean Platform Initiative which the Ukrainian government described as “a new consultation and coordination format launched by Ukraine to improve the ‘effectiveness of the international response to the occupation of Crimea, respond to growing security concerns, intensify international pressure on Russia, prevent further human rights violations, protect the victims of the occupying Power and achieve to the desoccupation of Crimea and to his return to Ukraine.

The first summit of the newly formed group is scheduled to take place in August and Zelensky said he has already discussed with the EU, Canada, the UK and Turkey the creation of the group.

Following the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union, the port of Sevastopol had been leased to Russia by several successive Ukrainian governments. Its potential loss following the US-backed ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 has been widely seen as one of the main motivators in Russia to annex the militarily strategic peninsula.

As Kuleba and Kiev are well aware, any attempt to impose “full sovereignty” over one of the Russian Navy’s most important hot-water ports on the Black Sea would result in a full-scale war that would threaten the outbreak of a third world war.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Monday denounced Kuleba and Zelensky’s comments as a thinly veiled threat of war for Crimea.

“All of Kiev’s efforts to reclaim Crimea are illegitimate and can only be interpreted as a threat of aggression against two Russians. [federal] topics. We reiterate that we will consider the participation of any state or organization in such activities, including the Crimean Platform initiative, as a hostile act against Russia and a direct encroachment on its territorial integrity, ”Zakharova said. .

The escalating conflict between Kiev and Russia over Crimea comes amid conditions where the country remains mired in a civil war in eastern Ukraine that has now lasted for nearly seven years. The war claimed the lives of more than 14,000 people, displaced 1.4 million and left 3.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance. UNICEF recently noted that millions of people in the war zone still do not have access to safe drinking water and some do not have regular access to water, even as cases of COVID-19 are again sharply increasing across the country.

The Ukrainian government’s move follows a series of anti-Russian political repressions and military build-up that have exacerbated the threat of full-scale war. In February, the Zelensky government undemocratically shut down three popular television stations run by pro-Moscow opposition leader and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, on “national security” grounds. Medvedchuk was subsequently sanctioned, and Kiev continued to accuse opposition politicians and journalists of “treason” for supporting a negotiated settlement with Moscow over the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.

The crackdown was, as might be expected, condemned by the Kremlin, which argued that it demonstrated that Kiev was trying to “solve the problem of [Donbass in Eastern Ukraine] by force. “

International observers in eastern Ukraine also recently reported a rapid increase in the number of ceasefire violations by Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists. This year already 10 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed.

While Zelensky was initially elected in 2019 on the basis of a rejection of the far-right militarist nationalism espoused by his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, Zelensky is now adopting a potentially even more reckless strategy. Many indicate that it is supported in this direction by the United States.

Last week, an editorial in the Washington post suggested that Zelensky was desperate to receive a phone call from US President Joe Biden, but has yet to receive one. The editorial supported Zelensky’s recent political repressions and urged him to act even more aggressively against Russia.

“Mr. Zelensky now has the opportunity to forge a partnership with Mr. Biden that could decisively advance Ukraine’s attempt to break free from Russia and join the democratic West. He should take it over. », Urged the editorial board of the newspaper.

Talk to Politico, a former US official close to the Biden administration is said to have said: “There is merit in having Zelensky sit down and wait his turn for an appeal. He does not fight with all his might to fight corruption. In fact, the pro-Russian oligarchs in Ukraine have gained immense power since Zelensky’s arrival. So there has to be some tough love with Zelensky when this one-on-one conversation takes place. “

Ukraine is heavily dependent on military aid and support from the United States in its confrontation with Russia. On Monday, the Pentagon announced a $ 125 million military aid package for Ukraine, the first aid distribution to Ukraine under the Biden administration.

$ 150 million remains in funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for 2021, allocated by Congress. However, this money will not be released until the Defense and State Departments jointly confirm that Kiev has made “sufficient progress” in “military reform” efforts.

While Biden has yet to speak with Zelensky, on the seventh anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the White House issued a statement supporting Ukraine in the dispute, saying: “The States -United do not and will never recognize the alleged annexation of the peninsula by Russia and we will stand by Ukraine’s side against Russia’s acts of aggression. “

In its reckless military escalation, the Zelensky government is also dragged down by a deep social and political crisis in Ukraine itself. Its political support has declined sharply as the country’s economy and health system have been devastated by COVID-19, with no significant vaccination effort in sight. There is a real danger that the Ukrainian ruling class, driven by a deepening internal crisis, will try to divert these internal tensions outwards, resulting in a war that would threaten the lives of millions of people.



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