Ukraine "will be ready" for negotiations on the status of Crimea only when it reaches the borders with the peninsula, that is, from the moment when it regains control over the territory occupied by Russia to the north of the Crimean peninsula, said the deputy head of Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriy Sibiga, in an interview with the Financial Times.
"If we manage to achieve our strategic goals on the battlefield, and when we are on the administrative border with Crimea, we will be ready to open a diplomatic page for discussing this issue," Sibiga explained Kyiv’s position.
He did not rule out that Ukraine will return the Crimea by force.
"This does not mean that we rule out the military option for liberating the peninsula," Sibiga said.
Sibiga's comments are another sign that Ukraine may be ready to seek a diplomatic solution with Russia on Crimea. Zelensky and his top aides have called for Russia's full withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, until any talks resume.
Last week, Zelensky also made it clear that negotiations on Crimea were possible when he mentioned that if Bakhmut was lost, he and the Ukrainian government would face internal and external pressure pushing for a compromise with Moscow.
At the same time, at the end of February, the President of Ukraine said that Ukrainian forces were ready "mentally and technically" to capture Crimea. In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Moscow could not imagine the circumstances how the peninsula could be surrendered.
On September 18, 2022, Zelensky said in an interview with Reuters that Ukraine would be able to live peacefully only when it regained all its territories. He also said that Ukraine intends to liberate the Crimea but he does not exclude diplomacy.
"There is no way out. We must de-occupy our territory. It may happen that Crimea will be returned diplomatically," Zelensky said at the time.
The day before, adviser to the head of the president's office Mikhail Podolyak said in an interview with Radio Liberty that after the withdrawal of the Russian army from all the occupied territories, it will be possible to talk about mutual security guarantees with Russia.