A senior Russian diplomat spoke after a US official commented on the possibility that Ukraine could use weapons aided by Washington to attack the Crimean peninsula.
At a press conference on January 18, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Washington considers Crimea – the Russian peninsula annexed in 2014 – as Ukrainian territory.
Asked if the United States would support Ukraine to strike targets in Crimea, Price said Washington did not call on Kiev to do this. However, he said, Ukraine will be the one to decide how and where Washington’s aid will be used to “defend their territory”.
When asked to comment on Price’s statement regarding the possibility that Ukraine might attack Crimea with American weapons, Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said on January 18: “Everyone should understand: It is clear: No matter what weapons the US or NATO supplies to the (Ukrainian President Vladimir) Zelensky’s regime, we will destroy these weapons.”
The Russian diplomat asserted that the supply of weapons to Ukraine, whether from the US or other NATO countries, will only lead to an increase in civilian casualties, and will create more difficulties for Ukraine.
“Think about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier statement. The Russian Federation simply cannot be defeated. Russia will win,” he said.
Antonov also accused Price’s comments of a move “to push Ukraine to carry out an attack on Russia”.
“We see that the rhetoric of US officials is becoming more and more belligerent. The US State Department, through statements that are far from the reality that “Crimea is Ukrainian” and “Ukrainian armed forces can use American weapons to defend their territory “is in fact spurring the Kiev regime to carry out offensive actions against Russia,” Antonov said.
“Having heard such statements from Washington, Ukraine will once again feel at ease (to carry out an attack on Crimea.) The risk of escalation of the conflict will only increase,” Antonov said.
In early December last year, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged the risk that Ukraine might attack Crimea.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 after a referendum. Since then, Moscow has turned Crimea into a “fortress” with strict defensive layers.
Ukraine has so far continued not to recognize it and has vowed to take back Crimea at all costs. However, military experts warn that this plan for Ukraine carries many risks because it could escalate the conflict. Moscow said it would defend its territory and annexed zones with all available means, including its nuclear arsenal.
In October 2022, the bridge across the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the Crimean peninsula was partially destroyed after an explosion that Moscow blamed on Kiev. However, Ukraine has denied this.
After that, a series of explosions in Crimea, along with Ukraine’s announcements of a plan to take back the peninsula, fueled speculation that Crimea could become the next fierce front between Russia and Ukraine.