KYIV -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says those who allowed Russia to illegally annex Crimea in early 2014 must be held responsible.
In an annual address to parliament on October 20, Zelenskiy did not name anyone in particular, but appeared to be taking clear aim at officials who assumed power after mass anti-government protests toppled Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych in late February 2014.
"Those who gave up on Crimea without a fight must be held responsible," Zelenskiy said, adding that his government is doing "everything possible" to return Crimea to Ukraine's control.
"We are building a Ukrainian Army that will be capable of defending Ukraine on the ground, in the sea, in the sky, in cyberspace, so that nobody would have the notion that it is possible to encroach upon our sovereignty, territorial integrity, or take part of Ukrainian territory without a single gunshot," he added.
Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and threw its support behind pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine's eastern region of Donbas, where more than 13,200 people have been killed in the conflict, which continues to this day.
In a speech many consider to be an effort to promote his Servant of the People party before key local elections on October 25, Zelenskiy said that his government supports the idea of an amnesty for "the millions of our compatriots, who have no blood on their hands and remain hostage" in Crimea and the districts of Donbas that remain under Russia-backed separatists' control.
"We will start a safe reintegration process after adopting necessary laws and regulations regarding the de-occupation of our territories," Zelenskiy said.
"As long as Crimea remains occupied, and Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are subjected to regular persecution there, the world should not forget about Crimea," he said.
Zelenskiy emphasized that 120 lawmakers from his the Servant of the People party will visit the Donbas region on October 21.
"[They will] visit Donbas, not Turkish resorts, not the Maldives as some did before, but the frontline," Zelenskiy said in a thinly veiled reference to his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, who was accused of travelling to the Maldives for rest during the most intensive fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russia-backed separatists in Donbas during his presidency.
The annual presidential address to Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, is usually held in April, but this year it was moved to October 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Zelenskiy's critics have said that his annual address was moved closer to the local elections intentionally to give him a chance to promote his party.
On October 25, voters in Ukraine will elect members of district councils and rural townships, as well as city mayors.
Zelenskiy Says Those Who Gave Up Crimea Without A Fight Must Be Held Responsible