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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signaled that he was more upset about the aftermath of his now-infamous July 2019 phone call with then-President Donald Trump than the actual call.
Trump was impeached for the conversation, as House Democrats claimed he improperly tried to pressure Zelensky into announcing an investigation into Hunter Biden and his dealings with energy firm Burisma by withholding military aid. In an interview with Axios, Zelensky took issue with the characterization that Trump pressured him.
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“Honestly, the main thing I read when my name appears in different media outlets, I read that Trump put pressure. Pressure? Well, I was very offended to hear this,” Zelensky said. “Why? Because I am the president of Ukraine. We may be smaller than the United States, but we are an independent Ukraine. We proved this to Russia when we kept our territory. We continue to prove that we are an independent country. This is why he did not pressure me. I will never say that.”
Zelensky then revealed something regarding the conversation with Trump that did upset him.
“There was one unpleasant thing. Until now I have not spoken about this,” Zelensky told Axios. “The publishing of our conversation, I think this is very wrong. And it was not Ukraine who made it public. I would never let that happen.”
Zelensky believes that anything said in a discussion from one leader to another should have been kept away from the public.
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“I think no matter what we talked about, this conversation was the first serious conversation between two presidents, between strategic partners,” he said. “And in any case, neither of us had the right to make such things public because these are personal things. Sure, we do not belong to ourselves because we are presidents who are chosen by our people, but I believe this simply should not have happened. I believe that was wrong.”
Upon hearing this, Axios’ Jonathan Swan noted that Zelensky appeared “angry” at Trump. “Maybe a little bit?” He asked.
“A little bit?” Zelensky replied with a laugh.
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Trump released an abridged version of the call’s transcript after a whistleblower complaint led to accusations that he acted improperly. An ensuing investigation and impeachment ultimately ended with Trump’s acquittal following a Senate trial. He now faces a second, unrelated impeachment trial set to begin next week.
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