Ukraine war must end with liberation of Crimea, says President Zelensky

·2-min read
Ukraine war must end with liberation of Crimea, says President Zelensky

The war in Ukraine must end with the liberation of Crimea, Ukraine’s president has said.

Volodymyr Zelensky spoke out hours after blasts rocked a Russian air base near seaside resorts in the peninsula that was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Witnesses said they had heard at least 12 explosions at the Saky air base near Novofedorivka, in the west of Crimea, which sent holidaymakers running for cover on Tuesday afternoon. At least one person was killed and eight were injured, according to Crimean authorities.

Russia’s defence ministry has insisted the blasts were caused by exploding ammunition. A senior Ukrainian official suggested they could have been the work of partisan saboteurs, while a top presidential aide denied that Ukraine was responsible.

Mr Zelensky made no mention of the incident in his latest nightly address, but he said it was right that people were focusing on Crimea.

“We will not forget that the Russian war against Ukraine began with the occupation of Crimea.

“This Russian war...began with Crimea and must end with Crimea - with its liberation,” he said.

Moscow could accuse Kyiv of crossing a red line if Ukraine were to acknowledge it had attacked territory that Russia sees as its own.

The Russian governor of Crimea said a three-mile exclusion zone had been established around the air base.

Videos taken from beaches which are popular with Russian tourists were posted on social media showing huge plumes of smoke in the distance.

The base is about 30 miles north of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which Moscow leased from Kyiv for decades before seizing and annexing the entire peninsula from Ukraine.

Meanwhile at least 13 people were killed in Russian shelling in Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region overnight, the region’s governor said on Wednesday.

This handout picture taken and released by Ukrainian State Emergency Service shows a lyceum in Dnipropetrovsk region destroyed by Russian shelling (AFP via Getty Images)
This handout picture taken and released by Ukrainian State Emergency Service shows a lyceum in Dnipropetrovsk region destroyed by Russian shelling (AFP via Getty Images)

Casualties were reported in the district of Nikopol and the town of Marganets, Valentyn Reznychenko said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian officials have begun offering men “lucrative” cash bonuses to fight in Ukraine amid “limited levels of popular enthusiasm” for combat, according to British defence chiefs.

The Ministry of Defence said this morning that the cash handouts were being offered in a bid to establish “a major new ground forces formulation”.

However, Russian officials are thought to be unlikely to bring the new army corps up to standard size because there are low levels of willingness to volunteer.