September 30, 2019 / 10:50 AM / 17 days ago

Ukraine wants to stay out of U.S. domestic affairs - aide

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine does not want to get involved in U.S. domestic affairs, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as an impeachment inquiry in Washington was set to consider whether U.S. President Donald Trump pressured Kiev to investigate his political rival.

The inquiry was triggered by a whistleblower’s complaint about a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy. That call is central to the impeachment investigation that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. Democratic-led House, announced last week.

Trump, a Republican, asked Zelenskiy to investigate one of his main rivals in the 2020 election, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, according to a memo released by the White House.

Democrats say Trump was soliciting a political favour from a foreign leader. Trump said he did nothing wrong and calls the accusations a witch hunt.

“We consider the United States our friend, our strategic partner. What is happening there - it’s their own domestic political games. We will not take part in this in any way,” Andriy Yermak, one of Zelenskiy’s aides, said in a television broadcast on the 1+1 channel late on Sunday.

Yermak spoke with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in Madrid soon after the July 25 call in a meeting the whistleblower’s complaint describes as a “direct follow-up”.

The meeting was one of several Giuliani has said he held with Ukrainian officials across Europe this year, as he pushed for Kiev to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either of them.

Joe Biden has accused Giuliani of peddling “false, debunked conspiracy theories”.

Yermak also said the Zelenskiy administration’s contacts with other foreign partners had not been affected by the turmoil in Washington.

The memo summarising Trump and Zelenskiy’s call includes an exchange in which Zelenskiy criticises Germany and France, who are involved in negotiations aimed at ending a conflict between Kiev and Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“The tempo and the basis for those consultations that we have with our partners in Germany and France has not, as of now, suffered any changes at all,” Yermak said.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Polina Ivanova; editing by Anna Willard

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