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Zelenskyy on de-occupation: Crimea is waiting, situation with Donbas is complicated

Zelenskyy on de-occupation: Crimea is waiting, situation with Donbas is complicated President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)
Author: Maria Kholina

The Russian-occupied Crimea may be easier to de-occupy than the Donbas region, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as it's not just about reclaiming territories but also about the mental return of people to Ukraine, according to Zelenskyy's remarks during a conversation with students in Mykolaiv.

"It may happen that we reclaim territories before we reclaim these people. It might happen. For example, if we take the Donbas, people have been living there for 10 years, living in a different space, and it's a lengthy process. It can be different. I think it's more complicated with the Donbas. Partners once told me: it will be nearly impossible to get back Crimea and very difficult to get back Donbas. But in my opinion, when we talk about people, territories return with people, and it will be very difficult if people don't want to return," said the head of state.

According to Zelenskyy, mentally bringing back residents of the occupied Donbas will be more challenging, as the region has experienced 10 years of armed conflict, with a contact line established. Additionally, there has been significant separatism, and some people have been through war.

"Such attitude is understandable. And even now, when Russia is waging war against us, Russians are fleeing, while the most hardcore separatists are staying there. That also says something. Regarding Crimea, there were no military actions there, so I believe Crimea eagerly awaits its return to Ukraine. Donbas also awaits it, but it will be very difficult because a large part of this territory was occupied and heavily militarized... Our main goal is to preserve ourselves. To keep what we have. The rest will definitely come back," added the president.

What would be considered Ukraine's victory in the war

Ukraine and Russia have held several rounds of negotiations at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, but they are currently "on pause." Ukrainian authorities emphasize that Ukraine will not return to the negotiating table until Moscow withdraws its troops.

Recently, the American news channel NBC News, citing American and European officials, stated that the U.S. and EU had begun private discussions with Ukraine on the possibility of peace talks with Russia. According to reports, these talks included discussions on what Ukraine might have to give up in exchange for peace.

On the same day, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refuted media claims, saying that no one is pressuring Ukraine on negotiation matters.

Currently, the Ukrainian government emphasizes that Ukraine's strategic goal in the war with Russia is the complete restoration of territorial integrity, meaning a return to the borders of 1991.