Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Ukraine’s president: ‘No blackmail’ in conversation with President Trump

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks to media during his press conference in Kiev Ukraine Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks to media during his press conference in Kiev Ukraine
Patty Aguilar | 12 October, 2019, 02:12

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday (Oct 10) he would be ready to open a probe into any Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US presidential election but denied that US President Donald Trump had tried to blackmail him.

Responding Thursday to questions from The Associated Press, Zelenskiy said that he only learned after their July 25 phone call that the US had blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

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 now-infamous July call between Trump and Zelensky stands at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani's efforts to pressure foreign leaders into investigating his political rivals.

For the past several months, the Trump White House has pushed the authorities in Kyiv to investigate Burisma Group, a big gas-production company, and the role there of Hunter Biden, who served on its board, along with actions of Mr. Biden when he was overseeing US policy toward Ukraine.

"There was no blackmail".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says his country will "happily" investigate whether Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 US elections.

Mr Zelensky said there were no conditions attached to him meeting Mr Trump, including whether he should investigate the activities of Hunter at Burisma.

Zelenskiy said it was "wrong" of the White House to publish a rough transcript of the call and he will not publish the Ukrainian transcript.

He said he had "several calls" with Trump, but bristled at repeated questions about their relationship.

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"We didn't speak about this", he told reporters.

Asked what Ukraine did to persuade the United States to release the aid, Zelenskiy said: 'We have many diplomatic contacts.

Zelenskiy appears to be playing to both US political camps to ensure Ukraine has continued support no matter who wins the presidential election next year.

The July call embarrassed the 41-year-old president because it showed him as eager to please Trump and critical of European partners whose support he needs to strengthen Ukraine's economy and to end the conflict with Russian Federation. "We are an independent country".

Ukraine's president just can't stop talking.

He spoke Thursday during an unusual, all-day "media marathon" in a Kyiv food court amid growing questions about his actions as president. No evidence of such a plot has emerged.

At the same time, Trump is also pushing Ukraine to investigate any potential wrongdoing by the Bidens.

Text messages released by Democrats show Kurt Volker, Trump's former USA special envoy to Ukraine, telling a top Zelensky aide that he should open an investigation in return for a visit to Washington.

During his July 25 call with Zelenskiy, Trump mentioned CrowdStrike, a security firm hired by the DNC that detected the hack.

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