A Ukrainian official said Thursday his country is preparing “assault brigades” to take back its occupied territories, which include part of the eastern Donbas region as well as Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
The announcement came from National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko, who was appointed the country’s acting interior minister following the death of government officials in a January 18 helicopter crash on a foggy morning in a residential suburb of Kyiv. Klymenko said in a press release Thursday that Ukraine is forming “Offensive Guard” assault brigades that will be made up of police and border guards and have the goal of “liberating our territories.”
“These are people who went through the crucible of 2014-2015, some of whom fought already in 2022,” Klymenko said. “Some of them are wounded. The units will consist exclusively of volunteers who are driven by patriotism, and there are a lot of such people in our country.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that withdrawal of Russian troops from all territories, including Crimea, is essential to ending the war. He has vowed to take back the peninsula, saying during a televised address on August 29, 2022, that Ukraine’s military has “kept the goal” of recapturing Crimea since it was annexed.
Klymenko said the decision to create the assault brigades was made “by our employees, who have enough rage to beat the enemy.”
“Many of our servicemen who have defended and are defending our country came up with the initiative to recruit people to such units,” he said.
“Therefore, it was decided that all those who are willing, who are patriots, and who lost their homes or relatives due to the war should be united in such brigades,” he continued. “We have already started forming units that are aimed at liberating our territories and reaching internationally recognized borders.”
Klymenko was referring to Crimea, which was seized by Russian President Vladimir Putin nine years ago following sham referendums that were decried by the international community as illegitimate. Crimea is internationally recognized as a Ukrainian territory occupied by the Russian Federation.
There are some fears that retaking Crimea would be a red line for Russia and that Putin may use his country’s nuclear capabilities to defend the territory.
Alexander Formanchuk, the chairman of Crimea’s Civic Chamber, told Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti this week that he believes a global nuclear war will “immediately” break out should any attempt be made to return Crimea to Ukrainian control.
“Russia will not forgive this,” he warned.
Meanwhile, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the defense intelligence of Ukraine, told The Washington Post in a Tuesday story that Ukraine’s military “must do everything to ensure that Crimea returns home by summer.”
This past September, Russia also said it was annexing four partially occupied Ukrainian regions—the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Russia is not fully in control of any of the regions, and foreign governments, including the United States, have called the move illegitimate.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.
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