The U.S. supports Ukrainian strikes on military targets in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, said U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
"Russia has turned Crimea into a massive military installation…those are legitimate targets, Ukraine is hitting them, and we are supporting that," Nuland told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
"No matter what the Ukrainians decide about Crimea in terms of where they choose to fight, etcetera, Ukraine is not going to be safe unless Crimea is at a minimum demilitarised," she added.
In response, Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, has accused the U.S. of inciting Ukraine "to further escalate the war," Reuters reported.
On Feb. 16-17, several explosions were reported in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, followed by Moscow-installed proxies claiming Ukrainian drone attacks.
Russia illegally annexed and occupied Crimea in 2014 in the wake of Ukraine's Euromaidan Revolution. The peninsula is also home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
Since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to return Crimea to Ukraine.