A Ukrainian lawmaker sheds more light on a back-channel effort to negotiate a peace agreement between his nation and Russia with the help of President Donald Trump’s business associates and administration officials.
Andrii Artemenko, a Ukrainian politician and chairman of the Solidarity of Right Forces party, claims he had dinner with Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and Russia-American businessman Felix Sater who once worked for Trump, reported CNN.
Cohen told CNN he’d had dinner with Artemenko but denies discussing a peace agreement — but he has offered conflicting statements on the meeting.
The special counsel to the president and a longtime employee of the Trump Organization first admitted to delivering sealed peace plans to former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but he backed away from that claim hours later.
Artemenko, who met Cohen through Sater, told CNN that the attorney told him the national security adviser was his best contact in the White House, and he promised the proposal would get “huge support” in the White House if it gained Flynn’s approval.
The plan’s details aren’t clear, and Cohen denied knowledge of them, but Ukraine’s prosecutor-general suggested they involved leasing the Crimean Peninsula — which was annexed by Russia in 2014 — to Moscow for 50 to 100 years.
Russia would then withdraw its troops from war-torn separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
Artemenko, who aspires to lead Ukraine as a Trump-style reformer, hinted to CNN that a lease might be part of the proposal, but he declined to offer additional details.
The Ukrainian lawmaker, who is facing a treason investigation over the plan, said he knew the proposal would be controversial because it was not arranged by the diplomatic corps of the U.S. or his own nation.
“That’s why I feel pressure, and for sure today I can see people accusing me, and I see the prosecutor of Ukraine is trying to do something, to open a new case, to do an investigation about me,” said Artemenko, who has claimed support from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Artemenko claims Cohen thought the plan had “great potential” and promised to deliver it to the Trump administration.
“It was Michael Cohen’s idea,” he said. “He mentioned his name first in my meetings. And he said ‘listen, Michael Flynn’ — from his personal opinion — ‘is most powerful man who can really support this idea, who can support, who can help you, who can provide this information to President Trump.'”
Flynn resigned after less than a month on the job for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his communication with the Russian ambassador to discuss sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
Cohen denies discussing the peace plan or delivering it to the White House, although he admits briefly meeting with Artemenko in New York City.
“If this continued fake news narrative wasn’t so ridiculous, I would be angered,”” Cohen told CNN by text. “Despite the multitude of statements issued denying any nexus between Presidents Trump and [Russian President Vladimir Putin], the main stream media just keeps on trying to perpetuate this lie.”