https://www.newsweek.com-By David Brennan
Above, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart in Kyiv on August 23, 2022, amid Russia’s military invasion launched on Ukraine. Zelensky vowed at the conference that the war with Russia will end in Crimea. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that Kyiv’s forces will retake Russian-occupied Crimea, as the leader and his top officials seek to build international support for full restoration of the country’s pre-2014 borders and reversal of all Russian gains.
Zelensky spoke at the second iteration of the Crimea Platform on Tuesday, an online gathering of 60 nations and international organizations. Speakers included Polish President Andrzej Duda—who attended in person with Zelensky; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“Ukraine is strong enough and powerful enough to see a perspective for Ukrainian Crimea,” Zelensky said. “We will bring freedom to Ukrainian citizens in Crimea, and we will restore justice to all those who suffered from the repressions and abuses of the Russian occupiers.”
“I know that Crimea is with Ukraine, is waiting for us to return. I want all of you to know that we will return. We need to win the fight against Russian aggression. Therefore, we need to free Crimea from occupation.
“It began with Crimea, it will end with Crimea,” Zelensky said of Ukraine’s war with Russia, quoting jailed Crimean activist Nariman Dzhelyal.
Ukrainian leaders have vowed to retake the Crimean peninsula—occupied and annexed by Russia following the 2014 pro-Western Maidan Revolution—and all territory seized by Russian troops in the eastern Donbas region, where heavy fighting continues.
Crimea served as a launchpad for Russia’s latest invasion that began on February 24. Troops coming from the peninsula struck north and northeast, seizing swathes of southern Ukraine including key coastal cities and ports. Ukrainian troops are now preparing for a counter-offensive to take back cities including Kherson and Melitopol.
Crimea has come under repeated Ukrainian attack in recent weeks, with long-range weapons and drones targeting air bases, transport hubs, logistics depots, and command centers. The attacks have caused panic among Russians in Crimea and buoyed Ukrainian confidence.
“Since February 24 from occupied Crimea, they’ve launched 750 different cruise missiles hitting our cities,” Zelensky said, noting the importance of the peninsula to the Russian war effort.
“Ukraine’s restoration of control of Crimea will be a historic anti-war step in Europe,” Zelensky said, adding that he is “sure” that Crimea, like the rest of Ukraine, will one day become part of the European Union—a key Ukrainian strategic goal.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.