At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration's attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump's July 25 call with that country's president, according to US officials and other people familiar with the matter.
The former comedian who won a massive victory in the Ukrainian elections in April despite having no political experience has tried to distance himself from the political battle brewing in Washington where the US House of Representatives has launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Responding Thursday to questions from The Associated Press, Zelenskiy said that he only learned after their July 25 phone call that the US had blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.
When asked how he persuaded the U.S.to release the aid, Zelensky said: "We have many diplomatic contacts". He said he did not violate Ukrainian law, adding that his comments of Trump's words could be construed as interference in USA domestic politics.
Mr. Zelensky said on Thursday that he had felt no pressure and "no blackmail" during his conversation with Mr. Trump - an answer that Mr. Trump immediately posted on his Twitter account, claiming it exonerated him.
Asked whether the Ukrainian version matched up to the United States one, Mr Zelensky said: "I didn't even check, but I think that it matches completely". All but US$30-million of the USA aid was released in mid-September.
The 41-year-old president reacted with surprise, saying he was a "modest" person and averse to celebrations.
"I don't want to interfere in any way in the [U.S.] elections", he said. "And you have to know that I understand, so I will not change any answers", he told a reporter from BuzzFeed News. He said it's in Ukraine's interest to determine what happened.
While responding to Trump's requests, Zelenskiy insisted he was not his puppet, and he appeared to be trying to put an end to questions that have dogged the new Ukrainian president since details of his July 25 call with Trump emerged.
"I told him. please help to resolve it", Zelenskiy recalls.
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