Ukrainian leader bristles at release of Trump transcript

Sep 26, 2019

Ukraine's president says his comments in a conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump shouldn't have been publicly released

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine's president says his comments in a conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump shouldn't have been publicly released, and is playing down Ukraine's investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The White House published a rough transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday showing that Trump pressed Ukraine to "look into" his rival Biden. The July 25 call is now at the center of a U.S. impeachment probe.

"I think such things, such conversations between heads of independent states, they shouldn't be published," Zelenskiy told reporters at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He didn't indicate whether the White House warned him that the comments would be released.

But he also said he's "not afraid" of the publication and that "no one can pressure me." He said the Biden investigation is just one of "many cases that I talk about with leaders of other countries."

The Ukrainian general prosecutor's office, the office of former President Petro Poroshenko and other Ukrainian government officials wouldn't comment to The Associated Press on the transcript or the Biden probe on Thursday.

While acknowledging that the Biden investigation is very "high-profile" in the United States, Zelenskiy said, "I don't know the details of this case."

"Different leaders talk to me at many international meetings about various criminal cases," he said, noting other examples from Italy and Turkey. "I talk about such cases every day."

At a meeting with Zelenskiy on Wednesday in New York, Trump says he placed "no pressure" on the Ukrainian leader. But the rough transcript summarizing the call shows Trump repeatedly prodded Zelenskiy to work with the U.S. attorney general and Trump's personal attorney to investigate Biden, a former U.S. vice president.

The call is the subject of a whistleblower complaint against Trump and the basis for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to open an impeachment inquiry.

Zelenskiy also tried to smooth over tensions with Germany and France after the transcript revealed critical comments toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

"I am grateful for any assistance to Ukraine from our European leaders, from Ms. Merkel, from Mr. Macron, and from others," he said.

But he maintained criticism of the Nord Stream 2 project for a pipeline to send Russian gas to Europe. He called it "a big threat to our energy security" and said Ukraine would lose billions of dollars.

Merkel's office refused to comment on Trump's remarks in the transcript that the German leader "talks Ukraine, but she doesn't do anything." Germany's Foreign Ministry provided figures disputing Trump's account, telling The Associated Press that since 2014, German direct support to Ukraine amounted to 1.18 billion euros, in addition to another 200 million euros through European Union support.

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This story has been corrected to show that the transcript was published Wednesday, not Thursday.

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