- Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the US, has warned America against permitting Ukraine to strike Crimea — the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.1
- Antonov's warning came on the back of America's approval of a joint international effort to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 and other fighter jets. Once such jets are in the hands of Ukrainian forces, they would deeply enhance and extend Kyiv's strike capabilities.2
- The warning also came following comments from US Pres. Joe Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who told CNN over the weekend: "We have not placed limitations on Ukraine being able to strike on its territory within its internationally recognized borders. What we have said is that we will not enable Ukraine — with US systems, Western systems — to attack Russia and we believe Crimea is Ukraine."3
- In response, Antonov said that Russia views strikes on Crimea "as an attack on any other region of the Russian Federation," and called on the US to consider the ramifications if such an assault on Crimea is permitted.4
- Antonov added that it was clear to Russia that Ukraine lacks the capabilities to fly F-16 fighter jets without the assistance of foreign pilots and maintenance crews, hence making NATO countries culpable in Russia's eyes if any such attacks were to take place.4
- Despite the reference to more direct NATO involvement, senior Russian diplomats also emphasized that the provision of F-16s would not undermine Moscow's military goals. On Monday, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov stated that such a transfer would be "completely useless and meaningless" in altering the course of the "special military operation."5
- Narrative A, as provided by CEPA. Russia's unlawful invasion of Ukraine did not start in February 2022, but in 2014 when it illegally annexed the peninsula of Crimea. What started in that Ukrainian territory should end there; Kyiv has every right to try and regain the peninsula within its internationally recognized borders.
- Narrative B, as provided by The Hill. While Ukraine may have a legal and moral case for attempting to retake Crimea, strategically and politically, it's not a good idea. Following a year of war, Ukraine's forces are already heavily degraded and they may become too thinly stretched in attempting to take the peninsula that has been heavily fortified since being taken by Russia nearly a decade ago.
- Pro-Russia narrative, as provided by TASS. After the coup in Ukraine in 2014, protests against the putsch erupted in Crimea and its residents overwhelmingly voted to reunify with Russia through a referendum. Crimea is legally part of the Russian Federation and any attacks on it should be treated as attacks on Russian sovereignty.