President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said he was ready to consider options that would ensure the return of Crimea to Ukraine by non-military means.
In an interview with The Financial Times, Zelensky said that he could understand how puzzled everyone was about the situation around the peninsula.
"If someone offers us a way that will help return Crimea by non-military means, then I will only be up for it. If a possible solution does not provide for all the Russian military to leave the territory of Crimea, then there is no need to waste time on this," Zelensky said.
Zelensky also spoke about possible negotiations with Russia. In his opinion, Russia will freeze the conflict. "It is a matter of time when the hostilities resume,” he added.
Kremlin's official spokesman Dmitry Peskov, commenting on Zelensky's Crimea remarks, said that the media misrepresented the essence of his statements.
"The Constitution of Ukraine stipulates that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine by force, by military force. De facto, Ukraine has not given up on this," Peskov said. "Such statements speak of the unwillingness and inability of the Ukrainian side to resolve the problem by non-military methods," he added.
"For us, this is the alienation of the territory of the Russian Federation by force," Peskov concluded.
Speaking about the possible timing of the end of the conflict, Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Volodymyr Gavrilov admitted that hostilities in Ukraine could end by the end of spring. At the same time, he suggested that the Armed Forces of Ukraine would return to Crimea by the end of the year.
According to Gavrilov, negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow may take place only after the Russian troops leave both Crimea and Donbass.
Military analyst Sameed Basha said that Zelensky was not being realistic with his demands.
Zelensky’s demands certainly have merit but are devoid of realism. None of them will be agreed to by Putin, who has triumphantly annexed four territories, of which two, Donestk and Luhansk, are Russian-speaking and have been controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014. It would be in Ukraine’s interest to withdraw its claim to these territories, for the sake of lasting peace. Instead, defeating Russia and humiliating Putin would cause more significant harm; as former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger stated, “it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability," Sameed Basha wrote in an article for South China Morning Post newspaper.
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The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces is preparing for a possible offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev said