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    A girl with Russian national flags painted on her cheeks takes part in celebrations marking the one-year anniversary of Crimea voting to leave Ukraine, in central Simferopol March 16, 2015.

    'Impossible to Lease Something From Yourself' - Russian FM on 'Crimea Plan'

    © REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov
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    Media reports on a plan on Crimea and the possible lifting of anti-Russia sanctions is nothing more than an attempt to draw attention away from Poroshenko's failure to implement Minsk deals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a presser on Monday.

    "It's impossible to lease something from yourself," Lavrov said when a journalist asked him about the recent report published by the New York Times.

    The report, released on Sunday, describes a plan which allegedly calls for the "withdrawal of all Russian forces" from eastern Ukraine and a referendum to lease Crimea to Russia for 50-100 years. It was reportedly authored by Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, business associate Felix Sater and Ukrainian opposition lawmaker Andrii Artemenko, and left with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn's office before his ouster last week.

    "There must be a lot of people who wish to distract attention from Poroshenko administration's inability to implement their obligations under the Minsk accords," Lavrov pointed out. "At the same time, [they want] to draw attention away from our German and French colleagues' failure to influence Poroshenko and make him keep his word."

    Following Lavrov's statements, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the report, saying that the question of "lease" is absurd: "How can Russia lease its own region? The very wording of the question is fairly absurd."

    He reiterated his earlier comments that the Kremlin was not aware of the plan, reported by the New York Times on Sunday, which calls for the "withdrawal of all Russian forces" from eastern Ukraine and a referendum to lease Crimea to Russia for 50-100 years.

    Crimea rejoined Russia after a 2014 referendum, when almost 97 percent of the region's population voted for the reunification. In Sevastopol, which is politically independent of the rest of Crimea due to its federal city status, 95.6 percent of voters supported the move. During his election campaign, Trump claimed he would "consider" recognizing Crimea as having become part of Russia following the referendum in the peninsula, adding that the Crimeans wanted to live in Russia.

    On February 14, however, the White House spokesman said that Trump expects Russia to "return Crimea" to Ukraine.

    Responding to this statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would continue its de-escalation efforts in Ukraine and would "patiently and consistently" reiterate to its partners, the US included, the reasons why Crimeans decided to rejoin Russia.

    "The subject of returning Crimea will not be discussed… Russia does not discuss its territorial integrity with foreign partners," Peskov stressed.

    The New York Times, Donald Trump, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sergei Lavrov, United States, Ukraine, Russia
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