White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki denied reports that U.S. President Joe Biden will pressure Ukraine to grant special autonomous status to the Russian-occupied Donbas region in a press briefing on Dec. 9.
When asked whether the U.S. will pressure Ukraine to cede land to Russia, Psaki said in response that it is "absolutely false."
The notion appeared in a Dec. 9 Associated Press story published shortly after Biden's talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The article quoted anonymous Biden administration officials who told AP that the U.S. will pressure Ukraine to "formally cede a measure of autonomy" to the occupied territories in the Donbas as a resolution to the current escalation. However, Psaki denied the claims and reiterated that the US firmly supports Ukraine, recognizing Russia as the aggressor.
"What we know is that the aggression here is on the Russian side. The military buildup is on the Russian side. There’s a path — a diplomatic path forward," said Psaki, "that certainly is our preference — but also (President Biden wants) to convey clearly that there would be consequences, they would be significant and severe."
While details of the talks have not been fully disclosed, both Putin and Biden stood firm in their demands, with both leaving the talks without commitments or resolutions. Biden stated that Ukraine has the right to choose what alliances to join and how to govern itself, rejecting Putin's demand of barring Ukraine from entering NATO.
Since the conclusion of the talks there has been no decrease in tensions. The Russian military buildup on Ukraine's border numbering nearly 100,000 troops remains, and Putin continues to vilify Ukraine in Russian media.
On Dec. 9, Putin described the situation in the Donbas as a genocide perpetrated by Ukraine, to which Psaki responded by pointing out that Russia is known for its "rhetorical escalations" and misinformation campaigns.
Ukrainian and foreign intelligence services have issued warnings that Russia may be preparing to conduct a large-scale invasion of Ukraine in the first two months of 2022. The U.S., UK and European nations are attempting to de-escalate the situation with Russia while threatening economic consequences for Russia if Ukraine is attacked.