Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky says there was no blackmail in Trump call

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday there was no blackmail involved during a telephone call with President Donald Trump that has since set in motion an impeachment inquiry.

Zelensky has come under pressure to shed light on a phone call with Trump in July in which the U.S. president appeared to ask Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race, and his son Hunter Biden who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

Trump repeatedly tells Zelensky that the U.S. has been “very, very good” to Ukraine, a non-verbatim transcript of the call showed. Zelensky told him that Ukraine, a country that relies on international financial and defense aid and is vulnerable compared to its powerful Russian neighbor, would work on the investigation.

There are question marks over why around $400 million of military aid to Ukraine was put on hold by Trump ahead of the phone call between the presidents. Trump has denied any suggestions that the withholding of aid was to pressure Ukraine into investigating a political opponent.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Zelensky said the goal of the call with Trump was to arrange a meeting with the president, according to comments reported by Reuters. He also said he told Trump that Ukraine was asking the White House to change its rhetoric on the country.

He said military aid to Ukraine was blocked before the phone call but said “our calls were not linked to Burisma or military aid” and said no conditions were attached to meeting Trump.

“I don’t want to interfere in U.S. elections,” Zelensky also said Thursday. He also said Ukraine was waiting for an official visit to the U.S.

The White House said Tuesday that it will not cooperate with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump.

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