(Reuters) – Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin said on Wednesday that he and CIA counterpart William Burns had discussed “what to do with Ukraine” in a phone call late last month, Russia’s TASS news agency said.
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on June 30 that Burns had called Naryshkin to assure the Kremlin that the United States had no role in a brief mutiny a week earlier by Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters.
Naryshkin confirmed that Burns had raised “the events of June 24”, when the mercenaries took control of a southern Russian city and advanced towards Moscow before reaching a deal with the Kremlin to end the revolt.
But he said that for most of the call, lasting about an hour, “we considered and discussed what to do with Ukraine”.
No comment was immediately available from the CIA.
Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in February 2022, says other countries should not negotiate its future on its behalf, and the United States has repeatedly backed this principle, described as “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”.
Burns and Naryshkin have maintained a line of communication since the start of the Ukraine war at a time when other direct contacts between Moscow and Washington are at a minimum, with relations at their lowest point since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
TALKS ‘SOONER OR LATER’
Naryshkin told TASS that negotiations on the war would become possible at some point. The agency did not specify whether this was part of his conversation with Burns.
“It’s natural that negotiations will be possible sooner or later, because any conflict, including armed conflict, ends by negotiations, but the conditions for these still need to ripen,” TASS quoted him as saying.
Asked about the report, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters: “Today, someone like Naryshkin has no leverage over how this war will end.”
Podolyak said Russia was losing the war and there could be no negotiations with people like Naryshkin.
“This Russian elite perceives events completely inadequately, so there is nothing to talk about with them.”
Ukraine, which launched a long-expected counteroffensive last month, has said it will not enter talks at this point as this could effectively freeze the situation on the battlefield, where Russia has seized more than a sixth of its territory.