(Kyiv) Ukraine’s foreign minister said Thursday that his country would not back down on its request to withdraw Russian forces from Crimea, as well as other parts of Ukraine that Moscow illegally annexed more recently.
“We are united by the principles of the United Nations Charter and by the common belief that Crimea is Ukraine and will return to Ukraine’s control,” said Dmytro Kuleba, speaking via link. video during a rally in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.
“Whenever you hear someone, anywhere in the world, say that Crimea is somehow special and shouldn’t be returned to Ukraine, like any other part of our territory, you You should know one thing: Ukraine categorically disagrees with these statements,” he added at the Black Sea Security Conference.
The Kremlin wants Kyiv to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea as well as the annexation in September of the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhia.
Ukraine has rejected these demands and will not enter into negotiations with Russia until Moscow’s troops withdraw from all occupied territories.
Although there are no signs of possible peace talks, the two countries have sporadically exchanged prisoners of war and reached a wartime agreement for the export of Ukrainian grain and grain and fertilizers Russians. The grains deal has helped ease concerns about global food supplies, especially in countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, where many people are already going hungry.
The agreement, negotiated by the United Nations and Turkey last July, is however delicate and has been the subject of repeated threats from Moscow, which wants to end it.
Last month, Russia agreed to extend the grain deal by 60 days ― instead of the 120 days provided for in a previous extension ― to send a wake-up call to the West.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned on Thursday that no discussion on extending the Black Sea grains deal beyond May 18 would take place until progress was made on the resolution of what he called “five systemic problems” resulting from the sanctions imposed on Russia due to the war.
He said in a statement that those issues include: reconnecting the state-owned Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT international banking system; resumption of deliveries to Russia of agricultural machinery, spare parts and services; lifting restrictions on insurance and reinsurance and banning access to ports; restoration of operation of the Tolyatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline; and the unfreezing of foreign assets and accounts of Russian companies related to the production and transport of food and fertilizers.
Military analysts believe a planned Ukrainian counteroffensive in the coming months could target the land corridor between Russia and Crimea, hoping to split Russian forces in two.
This would be a major military challenge. Satellite images show that Kremlin forces are digging vast networks of trenches in the area between mainland Ukraine and the Black Sea peninsula.
The fighting in recent months has turned into a war of attrition, with neither side managing to gain momentum over the winter and often resorting to long-range bombardments.
At least four civilians were killed and 11 injured in the latest Russian barrages that continued to hit civilian infrastructure, Ukraine’s presidential office said on Thursday.
The Ukrainian military said Russian forces had launched 32 airstrikes, two missile strikes and 40 multiple rocket launcher attacks in the past 24 hours.