Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied that he negotiated with the U.S. for military aid from the “position of a ‘quid pro quo’” and criticized President Trump’s position on corruption in the country in a Time interview published Monday.
Trump is currently the subject of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats over allegations the president withheld military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to launch a pair of politically advantageous investigations.
“I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo,” Zelensky said. “I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us.”
Ukraine has been fighting Russia-backed separatists in the country’s eastern region since 2014, and in the same year Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine by force.
Trump has criticized Ukraine as a corrupt country, and has lamented the fact that other European countries don’t spend as much money as the U.S. to help Ukraine.
Zelensky argued in the Time interview that Trump’s constant references to Ukrainian corruption make it more difficult for the country to secure the international support required to deter Russian aggression in Crimea.
“When America says…that Ukraine is a corrupt country, that is the hardest of signals,” Zelensky said. “For me it’s very important for the United States, with all they can do for us, for them really to understand that we are a different country, that we are different people.”
Trump has denied wrongdoing throughout the impeachment inquiry. On Monday, the President wrote that Zelensky’s interview exonerated him.
“Breaking News: The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls,” Trump wrote on Twitter.