Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there had been "no blackmail" in a telephone conversation with President Donald Trump that triggered an impeachment investigation. Zelensky said at a "marathon" press conference in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday he did not know at the time of the call that the US had blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine.
"We did not talk about it," he said. "There was no blackmail." Trump asked Zelensky during the call to "investigate" former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, according to a rough White House transcript. Congressional Democrats believe that Mr. Trump was withholding military assistance to put pressure on Ukraine and advance its domestic interests ahead of next year's US presidential election.
Mr. Trump later said that military aid had been frozen because of concerns over corruption in Ukraine, but the move sparked an outcry from Congress and the money was released in September, helping defuse aid. Zelensky said they had used their diplomatic opportunities, but did not elaborate on them.
The July call is a key issue in the impeachment investigation, and he has embarrassed Zelensky because he likes to like Mr Trump and is critical of European partners whose support he supports to strengthen the Ukrainian economy and end the conflict Russia needs. Zelensky tries to save his reputation and distance himself from the US political drama.