Ukraine, why Crimea is now the key: Zelensky opens to a “political” solution

Elizabeth Smith

For Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a political solution to achieve the demilitarization of Crimea is “possible.” “When we are on the administrative borders of Crimea, I believe it is possible to politically force the demilitarization of Russia on the territory of the peninsula,” the Ukrainian leader said.

And it is a sentence that takes on an interesting significance in light of the period in which it is uttered. At such a delicate (and decisive) stage of the counteroffensive.

How is the Ukrainian counteroffensive going

At the moment, in fact, many analysts agree that there are two war fronts. In the east, in fact, in some areas of the Donbass, there is a mild but relentless Russian offensive.

In the south, on the other hand, the Kiev army appears to be again able to wrest some small portions of territory from the occupiers, advancing particularly in the Zaporizhzhya area.

It is very difficult, if not premature, to speak of a new thrust of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which on large numbers still appears stalled after months of activity on several fronts.

Change of strategy for Ukraine

However, the impression is that after the secret meeting a decade ago revealed by the Guardian – a summit on the Polish-Ukrainian border attended by the Ukrainian chief of staff, Valery Zaluzhny, and some of the Atlantic Alliance’s military leadership – Ukraine has changed its strategy.

Kiev seems to be beginning to follow the advice to focus on a single direction without dispersing forces on several fronts. And the southward advance may be an indication of the materialization of this NATO suggestion. The push on the southern front at this point for Kiev has only one goal. Namely, to get close to Crimea.

And that is when things could change for the Ukrainian government. Zelensky said this, but Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also pointed it out, writing in “X”: “When Ukrainian forces advance southward and reach the administrative border with Crimea, events will take a different shape. In the end, everything will end quickly and in an instant, just as it began.”

Crimea is now key in the war

It is clear, therefore, that it is essential for Ukrainian commands to get as close to Crimea, the centerpiece of Russia’s Black Sea strategy as of the entire “special military operation” that began in 2022. The scenario does not seem to be of immediate realization, but it seems to be the one they are currently betting on in Kiev and in the allied commands.

Bringing troops to the Crimean border and putting pressure on what Russian President Vladimir Putin sees as an insurmountable red line may be the turning point in the conflict. The Kremlin cannot jeopardize its control of the peninsula since it has been considered part of the Russian Federation since the 2014 occupation and annexation.

And the importance of this Russian bastion in the Black Sea, both strategically and psychologically, is why Kiev has long launched a campaign of pressure on the entire region with drone strikes, raids, bombardments, and raids on infrastructure such as the Kerch Bridge.

Ukraine knows that attempting an assault on Crimea can be extremely costly in terms of human lives and complex to accomplish. Hypothesizing negotiations to persuade Moscow to demilitarize the peninsula may instead be a coded message that Kiev is ready to deal on Crimea (and perhaps not just that). But also to reassure allies about the future of the counteroffensive.

Read also: Putin’s war: what are the real and alleged targets of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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