By: Isabel van Brugen

Photo: Newsweek

The White House and the CIA have responded to a report that CIA Director, William Burns, offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a fifth of Ukraine’s territory to end the ongoing war as part of a peace plan drawn up on behalf of President Joe Biden.

A CIA official told Newsweek that claims in the report from Swiss-German newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) that Burns took a secret trip to Moscow in January and that there was a peace proposal put forward by the director on behalf of the White House were “completely false.”

Last month, Burns traveled in secret to meet and brief Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, The Washington Post reported.

Burns is said to have submitted the plan in mid-January to put an end to the war, which began on February 24, 2022. The story was reported by NZZ on Thursday, citing high-ranking German foreign politicians.

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Both Kyiv and Moscow reportedly rejected the proposal. Newsweek reached out to the foreign ministries of Ukraine and Russia for comment.

According to the newspaper, the proposal offered “around 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory”—approximately the size of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

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Kyiv reportedly shut down the proposal “because they are not willing to have their territory divided” while Russian officials said they “will win the war in the long run anyway,” reported NZZ, which has been described as the Swiss newspaper of record.

Sean Davett, the deputy spokesperson at White House’s National Security Council, told Newsweek that the report from NZZ is “not accurate,” and that the CIA would say the same.

According to the news outlet the German politicians said Biden wanted to avoid a protracted war in Ukraine, and so, offered the territory as part of the peace plan.

And when Ukraine and Russia both rejected the proposal, the Biden administration pledged to provide Kyiv with Abrams tanks, NZZ reported.

The U.S. announced on January 25 that it would send Ukraine up to 31 M1 Abrams tanks, after much debate and deliberation on the issue. The tanks could take months to arrive, according to reports.

The two politicians reportedly said that U.S. officials were split on how to handle the Ukraine war, which started nearly a year ago.

Burns and Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, “wanted to end the war quickly so they could focus on China,” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “didn’t want to let Russia get away with destroying the rule-based peace order and called for massive military support for Ukraine.”

One of the politicians told NZZ that he believes it is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. is preparing for a long war of attrition. He raised concerns that Germany would suffer economically, financially and militarily from such a war.

Germany has also said it would provide Ukraine with 14 of its Leopard 2A6 tanks, and allow partner countries to re-export other tanks to assist Kyiv.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on January 26 that the promised Leopard 2 tanks will arrive in Ukraine at the end of March or the start of April.

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told Newsweek the report from NZZ was “interesting,” but that he couldn’t “comment [on] speculation.”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that negotiations between Russia and Ukraine “are now impossible since there are no conditions for them either de facto or de jure.”


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