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Duda voices doubt about Crimea’s liberation, prompts responses from Polish, Ukrainian officials

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Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview with YouTube Channel Zero on Feb. 2 that he believes Ukraine will be able to retake Russian-occupied territories in the Donbas region but voiced uncertainty about the liberation of Crimea.

This prompted reactions from the Ukrainian ambassador and Polish government officials, who reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine’s full territorial integrity. Duda himself has been a vocal advocate for supporting Kyiv.

Warsaw has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, and the representatives of both the current and previous governments have vowed support for Ukraine’s efforts to liberate all of its territory.

Speaking at the interview, the president said that Ukraine and the West must resist Russian occupation and imperialism but added that it is “hard to answer” whether Kyiv will be able to liberate the occupied peninsula.

“I don’t know if (Ukraine) will regain Crimea, but I believe it will regain Donetsk and Luhansk,” Duda said.

The president said that the peninsula, illegally occupied by Russia since 2014, is a “special place,” claiming that “historically, it was in Russia’s hands for most of the time.”

Crimea has a complex and multifaceted history and has been home to numerous ethnic groups and polities. It was annexed by the Russian Empire in the late 18th century.

The peninsula was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 and became a part of independent Ukraine in 1991.

Kyiv has vowed to liberate all of the territories occupied by Russia, including Crimea.

Read also: Tusk’s return brings stability to relations with Ukraine, but economic challenges persist

Vasyl Zvarych, Ukraine’s ambassador to Poland, said on social media that “Crimea is Ukraine: it is and will remain.”

“Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea is a war crime for which it will be punished. The liberation of Crimea is a shared task for us and the free world. There is no doubt that we will achieve it,” Zvarych said.

“Poland recognizes the independence of Ukraine within its internationally established borders,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said.

Sikorski is a member of Donald Tusk’s coalition government that replaced the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in December 2023. Duda is considered an ally of PiS.

Roman Giertych, a lawmaker of the Civic Coalition (KO), the strongest governmental party, called Duda’s comment a “stupid statement.”

“I would like to remind Mr. Duda that there are cities in our country that in their history belonged to Poland for a shorter time than to another country,” Giertych said.

In the past, Duda said that the liberation of “Crimea and restoration of Ukraine’s full territorial integrity are necessary preconditions not just for the security of the Azov and Black Sea regions, but also for the stability of the global security architecture.”

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