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MOSCOW, February 20. /TASS/. You can’t take anything on lease from yourself, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday.
Russia’s top diplomat thus commented on a proposal by Ukrainian MP Andrei Artemenko to hold a referendum in Ukraine on whether "Crimea should be leased out to Russia for a term of 50 to 100 years."
"It is difficult to comment because you can’t take anything on lease from yourself. I even have nothing to add to this," the Russian foreign minister said at a press conference.
"As for various plans, then, perhaps, there are a lot of those wishing to distract attention from the complete inability of the [Ukrainian President Pyotr] Poroshenko administration to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk accords and simultaneously distract attention from the inability of our French and German colleagues to somehow influence Poroshenko and make him keep his word," the Russian foreign minister said.
As The New York Times reported on Sunday, earlier this month proposals were submitted to Michael Flynn as the US president’s national security adviser at that time on normalizing Russia-Ukraine relations and also on lifting anti-Russian sanctions.
As the paper reported, the document was worked out by Ukrainian lawmaker Artemenko. One of the plan’s points related to the status of Crimea, which had been reunited with Russia since 2014. The plan proposed holding a referendum in Ukraine on whether Crimea "should be leased out to Russia for a term of 50 to 100 years."
According to the paper, Artemenko confirmed to journalists that he had worked on the proposals.
After a coup d’etat in Kiev in February 2014, the authorities of Crimea and Sevastopol made a decision to hold a referendum on reunification with Russia.
The referendum, which took place on March 16, 2014, was attended by over 80% of the Black Sea peninsula’s eligible voters. As many as 96.7% of Crimean residents and 95.6% of Sevastopol residents voted for reuniting with Russia.
On March 18 that year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on reintegrating the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol into Russia and on March 21 the document was ratified by both houses of Russia’s parliament. Despite the referendum’s convincing results, Kiev has refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia.