Ukraine President Zelensky denies any quid pro quo with Trump

Trump says Zelensky's statement ends the case against him

UKRAINE-VOTE File photo of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky | Image via Zelensky's Instagram

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has, once again, denied that there was any quid pro quo between him and US President Donald Trump, stating that he would not have Ukraine look like beggars.

Speaking in an interview with Time, Zelensky said that he never talked to Trump from a position of quid pro quo, adding that the issue was not about whether there was any such exchange but about the fact that Ukraine was at war and that a strategic partner like the US should not be withholding security aid at all.

Zelensky spoke about the upcoming peace talks with Russia scheduled to take place in Paris on December 9, which he says will result in nothing as “people have come to these meetings intending for nothing to happen.”

The four-way international peace summit will feature the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, with hopes that a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine would be found.

Comedian-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelensky was elected as Ukraine’s sixth President in May 2019. Shortly after his victory, a phone call with US President Donald Trump embroiled Zelensky in a political scandal that continues to rock both countries.

On July 25, Zelensky and Trump had a half-hour phone conversation, during which period Trump solicited a favour, asking Zelensky to investigate Trump’s political rival and potential Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, over an alleged corruption scandal involving Biden’s son.

The transcript of the phone call, released by the White House, has been the centrepiece of US politics for several months now, triggering the first Congressional impeachment proceedings against Trump. While Trump has claimed he sought Zelensky’s help in a bid to tackle corruption, his opponents say he was soliciting a foreign power to interfere in a domestic election.

Throughout the controversy, one phrase has stood out—quid pro quo, a Latin phrase meaning “something for something”. The phrase refers to the allegation that Trump sought Zelensky’s help in exchange for offering security aid to Ukraine.

Referring to Zelensky's interview, Trump tweeted on Monday, "Breaking News: The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls. If the Radical Left Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!".

Trump has consistently referred to the impeachment inquiry as a witch-hunt against him.

The heart of the matter is the promise of nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine, aid that was announced in June, frozen in July and then released in September. White House officials including the US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testifying that the aid was conditional on Ukraine helping Trump investigate Biden's son.

This aid has been at the centre of Ukraine’s relations with the US, as the Eastern European country remains embroiled in a costly conflict with Russian-backed separatists that has run on for five years now.

13,000 Ukrainians were killed as a result of the conflict, with seven per cent of Ukraine under occupation by Russia in February according to Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.

A tentative ceasefire along the conflict borders has been in place since September.

Zelensky spoke about the pressing issues in Russia-Ukraine relations, including a prisoner exchange and the promise of an upcoming ceasefire. He responded to a question on holding elections in the regions controlled by separatist forces, saying, “Before elections, we need a full withdrawal, a full disarming of all illegal formations, military formations, no matter the type, no matter the group, no matter the uniform, no matter what weapons.”

Zelensky added, “Resolving these three points will create an understanding that we want to end the war. We definitely want that. But that will create an understanding that Russia is also very strongly intent on this.”

He also asked that Trump stop calling Ukraine a corrupt country, as it is likely to affect investment and business in Ukraine. "When America says, for instance, that Ukraine is a corrupt country, that is the hardest of signals," he said.