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Biden refuses to rule out Ukrainian territorial concessions

If Ukraine wishes to give up any territory in order to negotiate an end to its conflict with Russia, Washington will respect Kiev’s choice, US President Joe Biden told reporters, in Brussels, on Thursday. 

Asked if President Volodymyr Zelensky needs to cede any land to secure a ceasefire, or if such a move is off the table, Biden said that’s “a total judgment based on Ukraine.”

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“I don’t believe they’re going to have to do that,” he said, but he noted that “discussions have taken place that I have not been a part of.” He was presumably referring to talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators.

“Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Biden told reporters, referring to the slogan the US has adopted during the crisis. “It’s their judgment to make.”

The US president also said NATO would “respond” if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine, but he would not say how that would manifest itself. Washington and its allies have made allegations in recent days that Moscow might be preparing to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. Russia has rejected the assertions and countered that Kiev might be planning a “false flag” to pin the blame on Moscow and trigger a NATO intervention.

Biden conceded that the US-led sanctions against Russia – joined by NATO, Japan, Australia, and South Korea so far – will result in global food shortages, but pointed out that the US and Canada are major sources of wheat and are exploring ways to ramp up production and exports.

He said NATO and the EU are working to set up an organization that would keep track of other countries violating their sanctions. Biden added that he had warned China against helping Russia because that would put its economic interests in the West in “significant jeopardy.”

“China understands its economic future is much more closely tied to the West than it is to Russia,” Biden told reporters. 

READ MORE: China supporting Russia with ‘lies and misinformation’ – NATO chief

The US president insisted that the sanctions were never meant as a deterrent, but to maintain NATO unity, which he called the most important thing at this moment. 

Moscow attacked Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and end the conflict with the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia ended up recognizing the two as independent states, at which point they asked for military aid.

Russia demands that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two Donbass republics by force.

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