On Sunday, Ukraine presented a 12-point plan outlining measures to reintegrate Crimea into the country if it were to regain the territory through military means.
Kyiv has made it clear that recapturing the peninsula from Russia is a critical war objective, but Washington is doubtful. Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, published a report detailing the most notable information about Sevastopol: Russia’s primary port on the Black Sea for the last 200 years.
He stated that, in this plan to “de-occupy” Crimea, “the so-called ‘city of Russian glory’ is to be renamed Object 6.”
The report also promised severe consequences for Crimean residents who are seen to have collaborated with the Russian adversary. Sanctions may prohibit them from voting or running in elections.
The report posted on Facebook called for the demolition of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which links the peninsula to Russia. Furthermore, all Russian citizens who came to Crimea after 2014 would be expelled, and all property transactions made under Russian rule nullified.
Numerous observers believe that Ukraine is getting ahead of itself in planning for the aftermath of a Sevastopol reconquest while its military is still fighting fiercely to repel Russian attacks in the east.
Huseyn Aliyev, a specialist in the Russo-Ukrainian War at Glasgow University, stated that “These 12 points include many aspects of plans set out for the Donbas; they’re all policies that allow Kyiv to reassure public opinion by showing it’s serious about taking back every bit of Ukrainian territory from the Russians.”
Ukraine’s efforts to regain Crimea have surged since the Russian invasion in February 2022. Jeff Hawn, an expert on Russian security issues and a non-resident fellow at US geopolitical research centre the New Lines Institute, believes that “Since the Russian attack on Kyiv failed and Ukraine had that wave of success with its first counter-offensives, the idea of retaking Crimea has become integral to the official Ukrainian discourse.
” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in August that “everything started with Crimea and will end with it”, referring to Russia’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014.
Zelensky asked for more Western arms, stating at the Davos summit in Switzerland in January that “our objective is to liberate all of our territories” and “Crimea is our land”.
Nicolo Fasola, a specialist in Russian military issues at the University of Bologna, stressed that Zelensky was attempting to demonstrate how eager Ukraine’s military is to regain land.
While rhetoric from the Biden administration’s hawkish faction has emboldened Kyiv, the United States is sceptical about Ukraine reclaiming Crimea.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland stated in February that “Ukraine is not going to be safe unless Crimea is at a minimum demilitarised”. However, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested scepticism about Ukraine regaining Crimea just days before.
He said that Crimea was a “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Blinken urged Kyiv to consider using diplomatic channels instead of military offensives to recapture its territories. Analysts believe that retaking Crimea will not be easy since the Ukrainian army has only attacked non-fortified Ukrainian positions.
“But Crimea will be completely different because Russia has had an entire defence system in place for the last eight years,” says Fasola.
Long-range missiles are a critical lacking element in Ukraine’s arsenal. Kyiv has long demanded ATACM missiles, with a range of over 300 km; however, Washington has withheld them over fears that Ukraine would use them to attack Russian territory.
Experts caution that Ukrainian talk about retaking Crimea is not mere bluster, but battles over its control will not take place in the immediate future.
There is a significant risk that Putin would utilise nuclear weapons to counter a Ukrainian offensive in Crimea, emphasises Fasola, which is why Ukraine’s Western allies are hesitant to support retaking Crimea.