13 April 2024 / 16:23 RU

    Ukrainian president urges US to leave his country out of 2020 election

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy denied involvement in leaks involving conversations between Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko, The Telegraph reported.

    The president of Ukraine has asked that his country be left out of November’s  US presidential election after a Ukrainian MP published tapes apparently intended to embarrass Joe Biden.  

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy denied involvement in last month's leak of conversations between Mr Biden and Petro Poroshenko, his predecessor, and told the Telegraph he did not want the scandal to undermine Ukraine’s strategic alliance with the United States.  

    “Why is it necessary to drag Ukraine into this, again?” he said in an interview over Skype. “Now we are enjoying  bipartisan support in the United States both in Congress and the Senate. We have the support of the president. These tapes are not a priority." 

    “Ukraine doesn’t want to influence the internal political situation or external political situation in any country, or the election process in any country. We are an independent state. The United States of America is an independent country.”

    Andrii Derkach, an MP with close ties to Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudi Giuliani, last month published edited segments of telephone conversations in 2015 between Mr Biden, who was then Barack Obama’s vice president, and Mr Poroshenko.

    In the tapes Mr Biden is heard linking the release of $1 billion in aid to the dismissal of Viktor Shokin, the then-chief prosecutor who was widely Delete seen as alleged to be corrupt, although he denied the claims. 

    Mr Biden has publicly discussed such talks in the past. 

    Mr Derkach claimed the tapes breathed new life into an unsubstantiated theory that Mr Biden pressured Mr Poroshenko to block an investigation into a Ukrainian company where his son Hunter sat on the board. Mr Derkach used his privilege as an MP to request prosecutors open a criminal investigation into possible treason.

    Mr Trump survived impeachment last September after it emerged he had asked Mr Zelenskiy to “look into” the same theory, and strongly hinted that millions of dollars worth of much-needed military aid and an invitation to the White House would be withheld unless he obliged.

    Mr Zelenskiy, 42, initially said when investigators opened their case last week that recordings could be “perceived, qualified as treason”.

    But he appeared to back-pedal on those remarks in an interview with the Telegraph, saying he had no view on the alleged conversation between Mr Poroshenko and Mr Biden and would not pre-judge the investigation.  

    “Look, I don’t know anything about the details of that agreement. And  whether that agreement was reached or struck or even if this agreement existed," he said.  

    “The only thing I am interested in is how it was possible to eavesdrop, to tape the office of the president of Ukraine,” he added.  

    Mr Poroshenko has denied wrongdoing and suggested Mr Zelenskiy himself may have leaked the tapes, which Mr Zelenskiy has denied. He has also rejected the suggestion that he had an interest in the leak because it embarrassed Mr Poroshenko.  

    He has frequently said he expects his predecessor to end up in jail for alleged wrongdoing during his term in office.

    Mr Biden has called the allegations a "nothing burger".

    Oleksandr Onishchenko, an exiled former MP and businessman who is facing allegations of graft, told Russian news agencies last week that he was the source of the tapes.

    Mr Zelenskiy, a television comedian whose only previous political experience was playing a hapless president in a sitcom called Servant of the People, defeated Mr Poroshenko by a landslide to become Ukraine’s youngest president in April last year.  

    Three months later his party became the first to ever win an absolute majority in the Ukrainian parliament - giving him both the popular mandate and the political clout to force through radical reforms, including a land privatisation programme.

    But his central promise, of ending the war with Russia and its local proxies in the east of the country, has run up against an unresponsive Kremlin and resistance at home to any compromise that could be thought of as surrender.  

    And at home critics have accused him of succumbing to the habits of old presidents by installing old friends in top jobs. His chief of staff and head of the security service are both old friends from the show business world.

    He defends his record, but admits that the job has taken its toll.  

    “I should admit that it is very tough, it is very responsible. You cannot even imagine what resistance there is. My family is living under a microscope. For them it is ...very complicated" he told the Telegraph over Skype. "And" he adds almost defiantly, "it is funny."

    He is current juggling peace talks with Russia with the coronavirus pandemic.  

    Ukraine had 23,204 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 696 deaths on Saturday May 30 - a relatively low rate of infection that Mr Zelenskiy puts down to “timely” quarantine measures.  

    “Our statistics are not as bad as we assumed they could be,” he said. “I’m blessed to have Ukrainians who in majority followed the quarantine recommendations.”

    Like many governments, Mr Zelenskiy has tried to make diplomatic capital out of the pandemic through ostentatious displays of solidarity, sending the Antonov 225 Mriya, the largest cargo aircraft in the world, to deliver protective equipment to the United States, China, and EU countries.  

    But it has also put the brakes on dozens of other key policy process.  

    Delicate talks with Russia on the peace-process to end the war in the east of the country, he says, have stalled “for maybe three months, he says. "None of the countries in the world now are handling political or geo-political matters. Everyone cares only for himself.”

    That, he says, is a worrying trend, and without commenting on controversies surrounding the World Health Organisation he says the virus will only be defeated by international cooperation.

    The war in Donbas, where Russia has bankrolled and directed a separatist uprising, has killed over 13,000 people to date.

    Mr Zelenskiy says he is proud of having brought home sailors and ships captured by Russian last year, and of persuading Mr Putin to put new impetus into long-stalled talks on implementing the 2015 Minsk peace agreement.

    “I talked to Putin on the phone and we managed to agree on a meeting. Yes it brought a result, maybe not the one we would like to have, but still that was a rebuilding of the Minsk process because before they didn’t even want to meet,” he said.

    A thaw is a long way off, however. Fighting continues on the frontline in Donbas and the Kremlin said over the weekend that it would not invite Mr Zelenskiy to its parade marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War next month.


    01 June 2020 / 14:39