Forbes claims that President Vladimir Putin has turned down a direct offer from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko "to take Donbass".
The Russian president allegedly told the board members of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs about the offer at a closed meeting, the business magazine quotes its source, "familiar with the content of the meeting", as saying nearly half a month after it transpired, on March 19.
Putin supposedly said that the offer came at the "Normandy talks" in Minsk on February 11-12.
"He [Poroshenko] said to me directly: "‘Take Donbass!" I answered him:"‘Are you nuts? I don't need Donbass! If you don’t need it either, declare it independent," Forbes quotes its source as saying.
The Russian president then said that the Ukrainian authorities, however, are not ready to concede to it. If they are not ready, Putin supposedly added, they should pay the residents of Donbass pensions and social benefits, and restore the region’s banking system.
"Poroshenko offered Russia to take Donbass for financial support. Putin said that it would only be possible if Donbass becomes part of Russia. Until Donbass is part of Ukraine, all the payments shall be done by the Ukrainian side," Forbes quotes him as saying.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has already commented on the revelation.
"It is not very good that some participants of the meeting have revealed the content of their conversation with the president. Leave it to their own conscience whether it was truth or untruth. I am not going to comment on it," he said.
Head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Aleksandr Shokhin has said that President Putin’s words had been wrongly interpreted and distorted.
"The conversation was about the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, about the adherence to the Minsk agreements, but I am not going to retell his words. This was a wrong interpretation and I have no intention to either comment on it or retell it," he said, adding that it was a closed meeting.
"Frankly speaking, those who are creating a stir with journalists are acting, to put it mildly, inappropriately. And I will relay this to my colleagues," Shokhin said.
Kiev was also quick to submit their version of the conversation.
"Забирайтеся з Донбасу" не означає "забирайте Донбас", а зовсім навіть навпаки.— Yevhen Perebyinis (@YPerebyinis) 6 апреля 2015
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis tweeted that the Ukrainian president actually meant that Russia should get out of Donbass rather than take it, which in Ukrainian sounds similar.
The comments to his Twitter post, however, suggest that the two presidents could not have spoken in Ukrainian and called it "the most stupid excuse".