- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
- Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly proposed solving the conflict in eastern Ukraine with a referendum during his one-on-one meeting with President Donald Trump.
- Putin discussed the proposal in a closed-door speech on Thursday, sources in attendance told Bloomberg.
- Residents in pro-Russian separatist territories would vote on whether to separate, but similar separation referendums in Ukraine have been ruled invalid and have not been internationally recognized.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly suggested to US President Donald Trump that the conflict in Ukraine could be solved with a referendum during their one-on-one meeting on July 16, Bloomberg reported.
Putin mentioned having made the proposal in a closed-door speech on Thursday, but said he would not discuss the plan publicly while Trump took time to consider it, two sources who attended Putin’s speech told Bloomberg.
For the past four years, there has been armed conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donbas region of Ukraine. Residents of the Donetsk and Lushank territories, which are controlled by pro-Russian separatists, would vote in an internationally monitored referendum on their perceived status, according to the sources.
Bloomberg noted that even if Trump was amenable to the idea of such a referendum, neither Ukraine nor the broader European community would be likely to accept such a plan. Residents of Donetsk and Lushank voted to separate from Ukraine in 2014 in a referendum that was declared illegal by the US and European Union.
The conflict in Donbas was the result of Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Putin continues to justify the annexation by citing a similar referendum conducted in 2014, in which 87% of Crimea residents voted to become part of Russia.
That referendum was ruled unconstitutional by Ukraine’s Supreme Court, and is not recognized by the vast majority of the international community.
While the US State Department does not recognize Crimea as Russian, Trump has previously indicated being more flexible on the issue. At the G7 summit in June, he reportedly told world leaders that Crimea is rightful Russian territory because most of its residents speak Russian.