On Sunday, The New York Times reported that two associates of President Donald Trump, including Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, presented a sealed envelope to then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn containing a secret peace plan to resolve the three-year conflict in Ukraine. The plan, according to the report, would have Russian forces pull out of eastern Ukraine, and have Ukraine conduct a referendum on whether Crimea would be leased to Russia for 50 or 100 years. It also outlined a way to lift sanctions on Russia.
The reported plan raised hackles in Kiev, and not just because it would, in one form or another, recognize Crimea as part of Russia. “It’s nonsense,” Ukrainian parliament (Rada) member and former investigative journalist Mustafa Nayyem told me on Monday. “I don’t think anyone here in Ukraine would accept such a plan. It’s the banal bargaining over territory, and the time for that has passed.”
What really struck observers in Ukraine about the plan was its reported author, Andrii Artemenko, who according to the Times “sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine.” “That’s the thing,” said Natalia Gumenyuk, the head of the Hromadske.tv, a prominent news outlet that gained stature as the television station of the Maidan protests. “None of us had heard much about him.” What she had heard about him was that he was “marginal,” “a really obscure member of parliament from a shady political party.” She observed that “it’s interesting that it’s this kind of person who got in touch with someone over there,” in the United States.