Ukraine's Zelensky says Trump did not blackmail him in call

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had not known that US military aid to Ukraine had been blocked at the time of the call.
PHOTO: Reuters

KIEV - Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday that US President Donald Trump did not seek to blackmail him during a phone call in July or a meeting last month.

Mr Zelensky said he had not known that US military aid to Ukraine had been blocked at the time of the call.

Having been made aware of this by his defence minister later, he raised the issue during a separate meeting in September in Poland with Vice-President Mike Pence.

The US House of Representatives has launched an impeachment inquiry against Mr Trump, focused on whether he used congressionally approved aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Mr Zelensky to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden.

Mr Zelensky told reporters his aim in having a phone call with Mr Trump was to arrange a subsequent meeting and that he had asked the White House to change its rhetoric on Ukraine.

He said Kiev was open to a joint investigation into Mr Biden but added that Ukraine was an independent country with independent law enforcement agencies that he could not influence.

"There was no blackmail. This was not the subject of our conversation," Mr Zelensky said about his call with Mr Trump, speaking to reporters in a day-long series of televised briefings with the press, held at a Kiev food court.

Mr Zelensky said there were no conditions attached to him meeting Mr Trump, including whether he should investigate the activities of Mr Biden's son Hunter at Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.

The White House published its summary of the call between Mr Zelensky and Mr Trump last month.

'DIDN'T CHECK'

Asked whether the Ukrainian version matched up to the US one, Mr Zelensky said: "I didn't even check, but I think that it matches completely."

He said he had been made aware by his defence minister that Washington had frozen military aid to Ukraine.

He raised the issue at a meeting with Mr Pence in Warsaw when they met at a commemoration to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II.

"I told him... please help to resolve it," Mr Zelensky recalled asking Mr Pence.

"And after our meeting, America unblocked the aid."

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