Ukraine is reportedly planning to use the Russian peninsula of Crimea as leverage in future peace negotiations with Moscow. According to the Washington Post, Ukrainian officials have shared their plans with CIA head William Burns during his secret trip to Kiev last month.
The Ukrainian leadership, led by President Vladimir Zelensky, is working on strategies to end the conflict in a way that is acceptable to both Russia and the Ukrainian people. In order to gain leverage over Moscow, they hope to reclaim substantial territory by the fall and station artillery and rocket systems on the border with Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is located.
By “holding hostage” the Crimean peninsula, Ukraine intends to open negotiations with Russia and demand security guarantees from the West. This move is seen as a way to force Russia to accept Ukraine’s demands and hopefully bring about a resolution to the conflict.
General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top commander, has expressed frustration over the criticism of the recent counteroffensive launched by Ukrainian forces. Despite their efforts, the Russians have not been pushed back significantly. Moscow claims to have repelled multiple Ukrainian assaults and inflicted heavy losses on Kiev’s forces. The Ukrainian troops have faced difficulties as they try to break through fortified Russian positions, losing Western-supplied heavy tanks and combat vehicles to minefields and artillery fire.
Peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine broke down in the spring of 2022. Ukraine has since demanded that Russia surrender the four newly acquired regions, as well as Crimea, which Russia has emphasized is non-negotiable. Russia has also stated that Ukraine’s neutrality is a requirement for the conflict to end.
In 2014, Crimea voted to join Russia following a Western-backed coup in Kiev. The regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye followed suit after holding referendums in September 2022. However, Ukraine considers these territories illegally occupied by Russia.
By using Crimea as leverage, Ukraine aims to make progress in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. It remains to be seen how Russia will respond to these tactics and whether negotiations will resume in the near future.