During a meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to be uncomfortable with some of the claims made by Trump and flat-out said he did not want to be involved in U.S. elections.
On that call, Trump asked Zelensky to “do us a favor” just after Zelensky thanked Trump for the military aid the U.S. provided to his country. The request carried an implicit threat that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was at stake if Zelensky did not comply ― which is now the central element of the Democrats’ effort to impeach the president.
The July conversation included Trump asking Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden ― a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination ― and his son Hunter, and to investigate a conspiracy theory that the Democratic National Committee servers that Russia hacked in 2016 to aid Trump’s campaign were not actually hacked by Russia.
Speaking in front of reporters Wednesday, Zelensky was asked if Trump had pressured him to investigate Biden.
“I think you read everything. I think you read text. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved to democratic open… elections,” Zelensky replied.
“Elections of U.S.A. No,” he said. “Sure, we had, I think, good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things, and I ― so I think and you read it that nobody pushed me.”
Trump chimed in to say: “In other words, no pressure.”
Zelensky awkwardly begs not to be pulled into American election. pic.twitter.com/4egMjP89vF
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 25, 2019
Later during their appearance together, Trump expressed hope that Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin “can get together and solve your problem.”
Zelensky appeared uncomfortable and looked off into the distance as Trump spoke:
OMG — get a load of the look on Zelensky's face as Trump tells him, "I really hope that you and President Putin can get together and solve your problem." pic.twitter.com/IIefxLdXvB
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 25, 2019
The “problem” Trump referred to is that Putin ordered his military to seize Crimea from Ukraine in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, and then illegally annexed the country that year.
With the approval of the European Parliament and NATO, Russia was condemned and suspended from the planned G-8 summit in Sochi in 2015. Following the suspension, the Russian Federation permanently decided to leave the G-8 in January 2017.