Ukraine may be ready to negotiate Crimea once its forces launch a counter-offensive and reach the border of the Russian-occupied peninsula, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Andriy Sybiha, deputy head of the president’s office, said Kyiv could soon be “ready” to enter talks, in an interview with the Financial Times published Thursday.
“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,” Sybiha said, referencing Kyiv’s highly anticipated counterattack to regain territory in the east and south.
He added: “It doesn’t mean that we exclude the way of liberation [of Crimea] by our army.”
Russia has occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula ever since 2014 — long before launching its full-scale invasion in February last year.
Sybiha’s comments are the most direct indication that Ukraine may negotiate since the country cut off talks last April, though another adviser to Zelensky appeared to contradict his sentiment on Thursday.
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak went against Sybiha in a tweet Thursday, writing: “The basis for real negotiations with (Russia) is the complete withdrawal of Russian armed groups beyond the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine in 1991. Including #Crimea.”
“There is no question of any territorial concessions or bargaining of our sovereign rights,” he added.
In separate comments, Zelensky’s spokesperson Serhiy Nykyforov was quoted by Ukrainian media outlet Liga Net as saying the Ukrainian leader was the only person able to speak with authority about possible peace talks.
While speaking in Poland on Wednesday, Zelensky said the planned counter-offensive would happen sooner if Ukraine received more ammunition from its Western allies.
Ukrainian soldiers face a difficult situation in the key eastern city of Bakhmut, Zelensky said, noting that troops have been inching forward only to be pushed back by Russian forces.
“There is success in some districts of Bakhmut — we’re going forward,” Zelensky said Wednesday. “Or there’s no (success) and we’re again leaving for positions.”
With Post wires