One of the participants of the Ukrainian delegation at the negotiations in Istanbul, Mykhailo Podolyak, sees revolutionism in the return of the topic of Crimea to the negotiating agenda.
This position, of course, will not be accepted by everyone positively. The head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Refat Chubarov, demands not to betray Ukraine and expresses confidence that the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian political nation will not allow anyone to give up even a meter of Ukrainian territory, as well as Crimea and Donbass.
The positions of Podolyak and Chubarov, as we see, differ radically. But these are the positions of Ukrainian citizens, each of whom is interested in winning the war launched by Russia against Ukraine. However, there is one more position, without which it will not be possible to discuss a single “revolutionary proposal” at the negotiations – the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For Putin, Crimea is the foundation on which the entire modern Russian regime is built. It was the occupation and annexation of Crimea that made it possible for Putin’s rating to hit the skies, finally putting an end to even the decorative multi-party system, since all the parties in the State Duma voted for the annexation of Crimea.
It was the annexation of Crimea that finally turned the information into propaganda – Russian TV channels have not regained consciousness since the occupation. It was the annexation of Crimea that finally turned Patriarch Kirill into the presidential administration’s employee. After several weeks of hesitation, the patriarch supported “Krymnash” (“Crimea is ours” motto) and never again tried to at least refrain from supporting even those Putin’s decisions that created an abyss between him and his flock in Ukraine – but everything ended with the blessing of war in 2022.
That is why Putin will never agree to any proposal that would even conditionally imply that he can doubt the Russian ownership of Crimea. Such doubts are a direct path to the collapse of the system built by Putin. That is why among the conditions put forward by the Russian delegation at the talks in Belovezhskaya Pushcha is Ukraine’s agreement with the Russian status of Crimea. And we don’t know yet whether Putin has refused this ultimatum.
Therefore, a compromise between Russia and Ukraine – if we can talk about any compromises at all – is not at all a “revolutionary proposal” and not at all an ultimatum to recognize the Russian status of Crimea. I think the compromise is that Crimea will remain outside the negotiation process. Russia does not insist on Ukraine to recognize Crimea’s Russian status, and Ukraine does not change its Constitution and retains both Crimea and Sevastopol in it.
It is clear that it’s painful to hear this for everyone who dreams of restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but it seems like this is exactly the reality Ukraine lives in. And we have been living in this reality not just for the past months, but for eight years already. Since 2014, I have repeatedly had to argue that the main challenge for Ukraine is not at all how to return the territories occupied by Russia, but how not to lose new territories and generally survive as a state on the political map of the world.
The Crimean Platform summit, which was held on the 30th anniversary of our country’s independence, was perceived as one of the most important diplomatic achievements of recent years – we have returned Crimea to the international agenda! Putin, meanwhile, seemed to have a completely different agenda. It looks like the Russian president was preparing for the occupation of Ukraine, the overthrow of its power, the creation of new “people’s republics” on its territory, which could then be annexed to Russia.
And on February 24, 2022, these plans began to be implemented – and our entire previous agenda turned out to be refuted by life itself. But we, Ukrainians, still continue to cling to it. To cling even in a situation where only the courage of Ukrainian soldiers and international support allow us to hope that new Ukrainian regions will not be lost during this war, that the invader will be forced to leave the occupied cities.
Does this mean that I do not believe in the return of Crimea? And Donbass? No, just the opposite. I am absolutely sure that the territorial integrity of Ukraine will be restored. I have no doubt that the preservation of Ukraine as a state and international sanctions against Russia will lead to the collapse of the aggressive regime and the refusal of the new Russian authorities from the policy of seizing foreign territories. If the Russians want to return to the civilized world, they will have to give up not only Putin. They will also have to give up Crimea.
If Ukrainians really want to live in a country with restored territorial integrity, I am sure, the main thing that is needed is to protect Ukrainian statehood and prevent Putin from becoming a recognized international player again.
Vitaly Portnikov for krym.realiicrimea Russia russia ukraine war Ukraine