- REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
The Ukrainian lawmaker who met in late January with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and a prominent businessman in New York to discuss a controversial peace plan for Ukraine has been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
Andrey Artemenko was expelled from Ukraine’s Radical Party and has been accused of treason by Ukrainian prosecutors for meeting with Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, and businessman Felix Sater in New York on January 27 to discuss a plan that would allow Russia to lease Crimea for either 50 or 100 years in return for Russia’s withdrawal from eastern Ukraine.
It now appears that Artemenko has been stripped of his citizenship by presidential decree, RFE/RL reported on Friday, citing the State Migration Service.
Reached for comment, Artemenko said he hadn’t received final confirmation from the government that he had lost his citizenship. But he said he is working on “an official statement” to give the press.
In a February interview with Business Insider, Artemenko insisted that he had done nothing wrong and that the treason charges lodged against him were unfounded.
“I’m a member of parliament,” Artemenko said at the time. “It’s my obligation and duty according to Ukrainian law” to try to find a solution to the war.
“This is my motherland, I was born here, and I’ve realized that we cannot fight against Russia alone until the last Ukrainian soldier has died,” he added. “And they accuse me of treason! Nonsense! I have a right to have my personal opinion in a democratic and free country.”
- Stephanie Keith/Reuters
Artemenko said he modeled his plan to lease Crimea to Russia off China’s lease of Hong Kong to Britain for 99 years in 1898 and the US’s contentious “lease” of the Panama Canal from Colombia in 1903. In court filings, however, Ukrainian prosecutors said Artemenko’s proposal was an attempt to “legitimize the temporary occupation” of Crimea by Russia, which forcibly annexed the peninsula in 2014.
The prosecutors also accused Artemenko of conspiring with Moscow to commit “subversive acts against Ukraine.” But it is unclear what role, if any, Russia played in bolstering the plan.
The New York Times, which broke the story of Artemenko’s January meeting with Cohen and Sater, said Artemenko told them he had “received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.” Artemenko told Business Insider, however, that he had never spoken with any Russian officials about his ideas. Russia has also denied approving of, or even having any knowledge of, the proposal.
“Greed, envy, and pride – it is their main defects,” Artemenko said, referring to the Ukrainian government. He said he thought the government felt threatened by him “because I’m alone and I have my own foreign allies, contacts, and supporters.”
When asked in February if he was still trying to get his vision heard by the US, Artemenko replied that he was.
“I got thousands of phone calls and emails from people all over Ukraine supporting me!” Artemenko said. “People like my idea.”
The January 27 rendezvous was not the first time Artemenko, a self-proclaimed Trump supporter, made contact with the president’s allies. Artemenko met with Trump campaign associates last year and offered to organize a meeting between Trump and Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Valeriy Chaly. But Chaly ultimately refused to meet with Trump’s team, Artemenko said, because the Ukrainian government was backing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the time.