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‘Kissinger still lives in the 20th century’: Ukraine rejects suggestion it should cede land to Putin

A Ukrainian MP has given what he called a “polite” reply to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s suggestion that Ukraine should be prepared to cede some territory to Moscow in order to reach a peace deal.

“I think Mr. Kissinger still lives in the 20th century and we are in the 21st century and we are not going to give up any inch of our territory,” Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament, told CNBC Wednesday.

“That would be the worst signal to Putin,” he added.

“We should stop Putin now and not let him go further,” Goncharenko said, adding that he believed the best way to establish peace was to bring Ukraine inside the European Union as quickly as possible.

CNBC has contacted Kissinger’s representatives for a response to criticism of his comments.

Former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Kissinger caused a stir earlier this week when he suggested that Ukraine should be prepared to cede some territory to Russia in order to reach a peace deal with Moscow.

Speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum on Monday, Kissinger said “ideally, the dividing line should return to the status quo ante,” meaning a return to the existing state of affairs before the war, suggesting that he thought that Russia should be allowed to retain Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

Henry Kissinger speaks during a 2007 interview in Washington.
Brooks Kraft | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

Kissinger, who served under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, said that “pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine … but a new war against Russia itself.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ruled out ceding any land to Russia as part of a deal, particularly in reference to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are currently focusing on seizing.

It’s unclear whether Kyiv might accept that Crimea remains in Russian hands, however.

Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister added to criticism of Kissinger’s suggestion. “I respect Henry Kissinger but I appreciate that he’s not holding any official position in the U.S. administration, he has his own opinion, but we strongly disagree with it,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, told CNBC Wednesday.

“This is not something we’re going to do,” he added.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte commented on the Kissinger fallout, telling CNBC Wednesday that while “it’s almost impossible to say that you disagree with Henry Kissinger … I’m afraid that on television now I have to officially declare that I disagree with Henry Kissinger if that is the statement he makes.”

“For us the territorial integrity, the sovereignty of Ukraine stands above all else and it is up to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, and his team to decide how they will conduct the peace negotiations that we hope will start one day,” he told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum.

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