WASHINGTON (AP) — The Kremlin said Monday that the Russian government does not know anything about a Ukraine peace plan crafted by an opposition Ukrainian lawmaker and two of President Donald Trump's associates.
Russia President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, shrugged off the plan that the lawmaker in Ukraine reportedly tried to peddle to the Trump administration, dismissing it as "absurd."
The draft plan, first reported by The New York Times, calls for all Russian forces to withdraw from eastern Ukraine. It also calls for a referendum to let Ukrainian voters decide whether the Crimea, which was seized by Russia, should be leased to Moscow for 50 or 100 years. Russia isn't going "to rent its own region," Peskov said.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine began protests that escalated into a war. More than 9,800 people have died since April 2014 in fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists. A deal two years ago known as the Minsk agreement was intended to end the conflict, but skirmishes have continued.
The newspaper said the peace plan was the work of Felix Sater, a business associate who has helped Trump try to find business in Russia, and Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. They worked with Andrii Artemenko, who is running a pro-Russian political opposition movement in Ukraine, which was aided by Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Cohen told the newspaper that he had delivered the draft peace plan to the White House, leaving it in the office of Michael Flynn before he was fired as Trump's national security adviser. But Cohen told The Washington Post he did not give it to anyone in the White House.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed the comments of Putin's spokesman. "It is difficult for me to comment because it is not possible to lease something from oneself," Lavrov said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti."
Associated Press writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.