WH open to Ukraine giving land to Russia while UK demands withdrawal

WH open to Ukraine giving land to Russia while UK

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Tuesday that Ukraine will decide for itself whether to give up territory to end Russia’s invasion — declining to embrace a British stance that all Russian troops must leave.

Bedingfield was asked at the daily White House briefing about a statement earlier in the day from the office of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A CNN reporter noted that Johnson’s office “said today that they won’t accept anything less than a full withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory” and asked, “Does President Biden share that view that reduced military activity is not enough?”

“We are going to allow the Ukrainians to to execute on these negotiations. It’s not our role to begin the negotiation,” Bedingfield said.

“Again, our role is to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield, to try to strengthen Ukraine at the negotiating table by implying the sanctions and costs to Russia. But I’m not going to prejudge or pre-determine an outcome for that conversation.”

Asked later by a Reuters reporter about whether Russia should be allowed to retain control of the Donbas region, she said, “again, I am not going to pre-judge where these negotiations ultimately net out.”

Surrounding towns near Kyiv, Ukraine remain besieged by Russian forces.
REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

An unnamed spokesman for Johnson was quoted in multiple news outlets Tuesday saying that “we don’t want to see anything less than a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.”

Earlier in the day, Biden spoke by phone with Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the Ukraine war as Russia pulled back troops from near Kyiv after meeting stiff resistance.

Ukrainian and Russian representatives are meeting in Turkey to discuss possible peace terms after more than a month of fighting.

White House Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield insists Ukraine has full autonomy on negotiating on Russians withdrawing from the country.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that he was willing to discuss making Ukraine a formally neutral country, but that he would not agree to cede any land.

“The territorial integrity of Ukraine should be guaranteed,” Zelensky said. “That is, the conditions must be fair, for the Ukrainian people will not accept them otherwise.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 after recognizing as independent a pair of Moscow-backed separatist republics in Ukraine’s eastern and largely Russian-speaking Donbas region.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden has spoken to European leaders on the latest updates of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson demands a full withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine with no territorial compromise.
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared their independence from Ukraine in 2014 after protesters toppled Kyiv’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Russia also annexed the southern Crimean peninsula from Ukraine following a disputed referendum in 2014.

Putin launched this year’s invasion of Ukraine about a month after Biden said at a press conference that the US would respond differently if Russia launched a “minor incursion,” which horrified Ukrainian leaders – with one Kyiv official telling CNN that “Putin senses weakness” and may see a “green light” to attack.

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