Ukraine President talks to TIME about new role and alleged quid pro quo: ‘I don’t trust anyone at all’

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky critiqued President Trump’s decision on delaying military aid but affirmed his claims that he did nothing wrong.

Zelensky maintained in an interview published on Monday that he never discussed quid pro quo with Trump regarding military aid in exchange for an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump used Zelensky’s recent comments to further confirm that this impeachment is a sham and that he did nothing wrong. 

While foreign policy leaders believed at the time that it was in America’s best interest to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons and military aid,  many critics argued against it. Newly elected and untested Zelensky knocked Trump’s decision to temporarily withhold aid and expressed displeasure that he called attention to widespread corruption issues within the county.

“It’s not that those things don’t exist. They do. All branches of government were corrupted over many years, and we are working to clean that up,” Zelensky told TIME.  “But that signal from them is very important.”

Zelensky worries the corruption comments and could impact Ukraine’s relationships with the rest of the world. He told TIME that neighboring European nations would not maintain a partnership with Ukraine if it weren’t for pressure from the U.S. to do so.

“When America says, for instance, that Ukraine is a corrupt country, that is the hardest of signals,” he said. “Everyone hears that signal. Investments, banks, stakeholders, companies, American, European, companies that have international capital in Ukraine, it’s a signal to them.”

Trump has insisted that he is only interested in rooting out corruption tied to the U.S. and wants allied countries to operate honestly and pay their fair share. While Zelensky criticized Trump for his heavy-handed comments, he backed Trump’s claim that there was never a quid pro quo as alleged by Democrats and a so-called whistleblower.

“Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo,” he said. “That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars.”

Democrats have been trying to use the delayed military aid as ammunition in the impeachment battle, arguing it was leveraged by Trump to obtain dirt on a policial rival. Trump was quick to seize on  Zelensky’s comments and called out the radical left’s insanity and lack of desire to put these hearings to rest.

“If Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!” Trump tweeted.

Zelensky said he doesn’t want Ukraine to be used as a pawn in a power game by bigger countries. He will be working closely with Russia to end conflicts that began years prior during the seizure of the Crimean Peninsula but remains skeptical.

“I don’t trust anyone at all,” he said.

 

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