(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected any suggestions he was blackmailed by Donald Trump during a now infamous phone call in July that’s prompted an impeachment inquiry into the U.S. president.
Democrats say Trump tried to make almost $400 million of military assistance contingent on Ukraine opening an investigation into the son of Trump’s political rival Joe Biden, whose son did work in the former Soviet republic. Trump says there was no quid pro quo.
“There was no a blackmail,” Zelenskiy told reporters at an all-day press event in Kyiv. “It wasn’t a subject of our talk.”
The controversy has put Zelenskiy in an awkward position. On one hand, Ukraine is reliant on U.S. and other foreign loans to rebuild its economy, while American military aid and diplomatic backing help it in its long-standing conflict with Russia. But on the other, it doesn’t want to be forced to take sides before next year’s U.S. election, which Trump could lose.
Zelenskiy said he wasn’t aware when he spoke by phone with Trump that the military aid at the center of the scandal had been frozen. He said he discussed the assistance at a later meeting in Warsaw with Vice President Mike Pence. After that, the aid was unlocked following talks via diplomatic channels, he said.
Despite progress toward peace in the war in eastern Ukraine, Zelenskiy said U.S. military aid remains very important, as do U.S. relations.
(Updates with Zelenskiy quote in third paragraph)
--With assistance from Volodymyr Verbyany.
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