US President Donald Trump has denied that he placed pressure on Volodymyr Zelensky, his Ukrainian counterpart, to launch an investigation into a case involving former US vice president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.
Mr Trump did, however, acknowledge that the issue was discussed.
“It was a warm, friendly conversation. There was no quid pro quo. There was nothing. It was a perfect conversation,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House, noting that his discussion with Mr Zelensky was “largely about corruption” and the alleged wrongdoings of Mr Biden and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine.
Asked why the White House delayed a military aid package for Ukraine worth 250 million US dollars, Mr Trump said the reason for the delay was that he wanted the European Union, especially France and Germany, to put up a similar amount of financial support for the Ukrainian military.
“I backed Ukraine from the beginning. But I’m very upset that other countries aren’t doing the same,” Mr Trump said, adding that, “Germany should be spending much more. France, all of the European Union should be spending money.”
The money was eventually released earlier in September following bipartisan pressure from the US Congress.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, also stressed that there had been no pressure placed on Mr Zelensky by the US president.
“Those people who are engaged in Ukrainian-American relations understand that we have always tried to appreciate assistance from both parties. This assistance allowed us to ensure that with the change of administration, we will not change the priorities in relations with the United States,” he told Hromadske in an interview, emphasising that the Ukrainian government will not intervene regarding the Biden case.
Mr Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky on July 25 took place close to the time when Rudy Giuliani, the US president’s personal attorney, lobbied Ukrainian government officials to reopen an investigation against Mr Biden.
In May, former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Litsenko said that no evidence of wrongdoing against Hunter Biden had been found.
Earlier this month, three panels in the US House launched an investigation against Mr Giuliani’s actions to explore if he was abusing presidential power.
Mr Biden has urged an investigation against the US president and called on him to release the transcripts of his phone call with Mr Zelensky. Mr Trump has said he is considering it.
Democrats in the US Congress are reportedly considering impeachment procedures against Mr Trump should be any proof of abuse of executive power be found.