NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
© Sputnik / Стрингер /FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during news conference in Brussel, Belgium. Jens Stoltenberg's chief of staff has retracted his 'land for peace' suggestion after a backlash from Kiev.
Stian Jenssen, the chief of staff to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday that his peace proposal for Ukraine was a "mistake," after it drew condemnations from Kiev.

Jenssen told a forum in Arendal, Norway on Tuesday, that a solution to the conflict "could be for Ukraine to give up territory, and get NATO membership in return," given that the bloc has been unwilling to admit Kiev while hostilities with Russia are ongoing.

"My statement about this was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine, and I shouldn't have said it that way. It was a mistake," Jenssen told the Norwegian outlet Verdens Gang (VG).

He also praised Ukraine's "heroic effort" against Russia during the forum and said that while there had been concerns it "could collapse within weeks and days," the topic now is "how much territory Ukraine is able to take back."

Ukrainians will decide if and when they are ready to negotiate with Moscow, he added.

When VG reported on Jenssen's remarks, they drew a flurry of condemnations from Kiev. In a string of social media posts, Mikhail Podoliak, an adviser to President Vladimir Zelensky, called the idea "ridiculous" and said that trading land for peace would amount to "deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations."

Aleksey Danilov, the head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said that Kiev will never negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that "Russia must be destroyed like a modern-day Carthage."

Ukrainian forces launched a major offensive against the Russian lines in early June, attempting to reach the Sea of Azov and cut off Crimea. All their efforts to break through have failed so far, however, at a cost of 43,000 men and nearly 5,000 pieces of heavy equipment, according to the latest figures from the Russian Defense Ministry. These losses include dozens of tanks and combat vehicles supplied by Kiev's Western backers, who continue to supply Ukraine with weapons, ammunition, and equipment, while insisting they are not actually a party to the conflict.