Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied once again that President Trump used nearly $400 million in military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure him to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 US election.
“I did not speak with US President Trump in those terms: you give me this, I give you that,” Zelensky told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Monday.
The July 25 phone call between Zelensky and Trump sparked the impeachment inquiry that is underway in the House.
Trump has called the phone call “perfect” and blasted the Democrats’ impeachment effort as a “witch hunt.”
“As for the United States, I do not want us to act like beggars. But you have to realize that we are at war,” Zelensky told the publication. “And if you are our strategic partner then you should not block any help. It’s about fairness for me. It’s not about a quid pro quo, it’s just a story in itself.”
The military aid, which was approved by Congress in January and eventually released on Sept. 11, supports Ukraine’s fight against Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country.
In the interview, Zelensky was asked about Trump’s claim that he held up the military assistance to ensure that Ukraine was taking steps to combat rampant corruption.
“I do not have to convince him. I told him at our meeting that I do not want him to have such a picture of our country. And that he should just come here and see how we live, and above all, what we are for people,” Zelensky said. “It seemed to me that he heard me. At least he said at the meeting: Yes, I see, they are young, new people.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he understands that Ukraine’s leaders would want assistance from the US and that the Trump administration has supported the Ukrainian people.
“I certainly understand President Zelensky would want more and want it faster,” he said during an interview on “Fox & Friends.” “I can certainly understand that. But this administration has done yeoman work in providing assistance to Ukrainian defense forces.”
Zelensky, in an interview in October, said he was unaware that the military aid was suspended when he spoke to Trump in July.
“There was no blackmail. I had no idea the military aid was held up,” he said at a news conference.
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