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Ukraine’s Zelensky: ‘No Blackmail’ in Telephone Call with Trump

12 October 2019

At the time, the officials were unnerved by the removal in May of the US ambassador to Ukraine, by subsequent efforts by Trump's lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to promote Ukraine-related conspiracies, as well as by signals in meetings at the White House that Trump wanted the new government in Kiev to deliver material that might be politically damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

In an all-day "media marathon" held in a Kyiv food court, Ukraine's president played down suggestions that Trump pressured him in exchange for US military aid to help Ukraine battle Russian-backed separatists. Congressional Democrats believe Trump was holding up the aid to use as leverage to pressure Ukraine and advance his domestic political interests ahead of next year's USA presidential election.

Trump alleges that Joe Biden tried to block a Ukraine corruption probe into his son's business partner, a Ukraine gas tycoon.

Mr Biden's son Hunter was on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

Mr Zelensky told reporters that Mr Trump did not seek to blackmail him during a phone call in July or a meeting in September.

"There was no blackmail".

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"I did not mean to insult anyone", Zelenskiy said in response.

The July call is central to the impeachment inquiry, and it embarrassed Zelensky because it showed him as eager to please Mr. Trump and critical of European partners whose support he needs to strengthen Ukraine's economy and to end the conflict with Russian Federation. The Trump administration, however, released the transcript of the call late last month, a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry against the US president.

Zelensky said the phone call will not affect relations between Washington and Kiev.

Zelensky said the USA has not provided any details of such interference.

Asked what Ukraine did to persuade the U.S.to release the aid, Zelenskiy said: "We have many diplomatic contacts. And in case we need to find a solution to questions of this level, questions about our country's security, we use all our powerful possibilities".

Ukraine's president just can't stop talking.

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The July call is central to the impeachment inquiry, and embarrassed Zelenskiy 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.

Most of the questions at Thursday's unusual media event related to the Russian Federation conflict or Ukraine's economic troubles.

But new details about the sequence inside the White House suggest that concerns about the call and events leading up to it were profound even among Trump's top advisers, including Bolton and then-acting deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman.

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

Zelenskiy also joked about Trump's Twitter missives, saying he doesn't expect a change in U.S.

The whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment effort had a "prior working relationship with a current 2020 Democratic contender" and is a registered Democrat, a source familiar with the matter told CBS News, the BBC's USA partner, on Thursday.

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Ukraine’s Zelensky: ‘No Blackmail’ in Telephone Call with Trump