10:34 16 Feb 2023

Ukraine reclaiming Crimea could be "red line" for putin – Blinken

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Ukraine's attempt to return Crimea may lead to a broader response from russia. This will be a "red line" for russian dictator putin, says US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Politico reports that he stated this in a conversation with a group of Zoom experts. One of the experts asked Blinken whether the United States is ready to help Ukraine realize its long-term goal to return the territory captured by russian troops.

According to four people familiar with the situation, Blinken said Washington was "inactively" encouraging Kyiv to return control of the annexed peninsula. However, the main focus of the US administration is to help Ukraine advance to where the fighting is going on, mainly in the east.

That assessment echoes comments from Pentagon officials in recent weeks. They talked about the fierce struggle that is still going on in Donbas and the south and questioned Ukraine's ability to seize Crimea in the near future, the publication reports.

Two sources noted that the Secretary of State created the impression that the US does not consider it a reasonable step to go on the offensive to de-occupy Crimea. At the same time, they emphasized that Blinken did not say these words directly.

Two other sources did not take Blinken's comments that way. The Secretary of State noted that Ukraine, not America, made decisions about where to go on the offensive and what to return under control. This made them understand Blinken is more open to Ukraine's potential battle for Crimea.

"Overall, the message is that there is a lot of uncertainty on how things will go from here with real questions about capacity of either side to make big gains," said one source.

The publication also emphasized that the US State Department refused to comment on the content of the call and Blinken's other conversations with experts.

Earlier, the Defense Intelligence Chief at the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, denied that the Armed Forces of Ukraine entering the temporarily occupied Crimea would encourage the putin to use nuclear weapons. He added that russia uses intimidation tactics.

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