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Trump aides pushing back-door peace plan for Ukraine: NY Times

US President Donald Trump’s aides have opened a back-door diplomacy channel aimed at reaching out a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine, according to a report.   

The New York Times made the revelation on Sunday, days after the paper reported senior Trump aides were in regular contact with Russian intelligence during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

The US president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Felix Sater, a business associate who helped Trump strike deals in Russia, have presented a plan to the Trump administration to lift sanctions against Russia and establish peace in Ukraine.

Cohen, who has been with the Trump Organization as special counsel since 2007, hand-delivered the peace proposal to Michael Flynn a week before he resigned as national security adviser.

According to the report, Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko is also involved in the effort to establish peace in Ukraine.

Artemenko is leading a political opposition movement against Petro Poroshenko who became the president of Ukraine following the ouster of democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych in a 2014 US-backed uprising.

Artemenko claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by Poroshenko that could help oust him, the report said.

In addition, Ukrainian lawmaker Artemenko said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top aides have expressed Moscow’s support for his plans, the report said.

“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?” he asked.

The report said Artemenko sees “in Mr Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan for peace in Ukraine,” but the Poroshenko government is against any such effort.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly rejected the plan, saying, “It is a gross violation of the Constitution.”

“Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests,” he said.

The Trump administration has suggested that it could lift economic sanctions against Russia which were imposed against the country over accusations that Moscow has been involved in a deadly crisis in Ukraine.

The administration of former President Barack Obama was in favor of keeping sanctions against Russia in place until Moscow followed the terms of the Minsk peace deal.

Ukraine’s warring sides reached a deal, dubbed Minsk II, at a summit attended by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in the Belarusian capital Minsk in February 2015.

The agreement introduced measures such as a ceasefire, a pullout of heavy weapons and constitutional reforms in Ukraine by the end of that year. Russia says the government in Kiev and its Western allies have twisted the peace deal.

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