White House disputes Biden's claim that Putin was offered "20% of Ukraine"

USA: According to a report in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NNZ) on Wednesday, President Joe Biden allegedly sent CIA Director William Burns on a covert mission to Moscow and then Kiev in the middle of January.

The US had not offered Russia 20% of Ukrainian territory as part of a peace proposal, the White House and the CIA both responded to the claims on Thursday.

Burns is alleged to have proposed a "land for peace" deal in which Russia would retain about "20% of Ukraine's territory"—an area roughly the size of Donbass—during private conversations with two German lawmakers involved in foreign policy. One of the lawmakers was a member of the ruling coalition and the other was an opponent.

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The German-Swiss newspaper made passing mention of the purported proposal while focusing on the sequence of events that led to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US President Joe Biden announcing they would send Leopard 2 and Abrams heavy tanks to the Kiev government.

Sean Davett, the deputy spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, told Newsweek that the CIA will also state that the NZZ report is "not accurate." The US outlet was then informed by a CIA official that any reports of Burns making a covert trip to Moscow or making a peace proposal on the White House's behalf were "completely false."

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Burns travelled covertly to Kiev before the tank announcement, according to an earlier Washington Post report, to meet with and brief Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.

According to what the two German politicians told NZZ, the peace proposal suggested that Washington had divided opinions on the conflict. Burns and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, want to end the conflict in Ukraine quickly so they can concentrate on China, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are steadfastly supporting Kiev.

The Swiss outlet also cited a recent Rand Corporation report that urged Washington to avoid a "long war" in Ukraine, among other things so that the US could concentrate on China.

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According to NZZ, Ukraine and Russia both rejected the US proposal. While Moscow was certain of victory, Kiev stated that it was unwilling to cede any territory. Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the UN, responded to Newsweek's inquiry about the NZZ report by saying he found it "interesting" but declined to comment on "speculation."

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