Ukrainian president says he asked Trump to stop calling his country 'corrupted'

1023
Advertisement

Trump has claimed he withheld critical aid to the country over corruption issues, despite his own administration certifying that Ukraine was addressing the issue already.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said over the weekend that he asked Donald Trump to stop referring to his nation as a corrupt country the last time they met.

Trump has frequently made the assertion to justify his attempt to get Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals, actions which ultimately led to his impeachment in December.

The Ukrainian leader spoke at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Advertisement

"Please, please stop to say that Ukraine is a corrupted country, because from now, it's not truth," Zelenskiy said he told Trump when they met at the 74th United Nations General Assembly in September, according to Politico EU. "We want to change this image."

At that same event, Zelenskiy also called for increased support for Ukraine from the United States and Europe, referring to the country's need for assistance in the face of Russian aggression. Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Trump has repeatedly accused Ukraine of being a corrupt nation, using that assertion to justify his decision to freeze military aid to the country last summer. Trump suggested he did so to ensure Ukraine tackled its corruption problems, but aids and several government officials have since confirmed Trump did so to force Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

"We have to check corruption," Trump said in January, justifying the pressure he put on Ukraine.

Back in November, prior to his impeachment, Trump tweeted that he "held back the money from Ukraine because it is considered a corrupt country, & I wanted to know why nearby European countries weren’t putting up [aid] money also."

The European Union and various European financial institutions have in fact given Ukraine more than $16.4 billion since 2014, according to FactCheck.org.

In addition to withholding the aid funds over supposed "corruption" concerns, the Trump administration threatened to block officials from attending Zelenskiy's inauguration until the nation announced an investigation into Trump's rivals. They also dangled the possibility of a coveted White House visit, which has not yet materialized.

Trump eventually released the aid funds in September last year, after reports were published about a whistleblower who had alerted Congress about Trump's pressure campaign.

Additionally, although Ukraine's government does indeed suffer from endemic corruption issues, officials there had already satisfied all of the anticorruption requirements necessary to release congressional allocated aid funds when Trump put a hold on them.

According to Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense who testified before House lawmakers last fall as part of Trump's impeachment inquiry, the DOD had already "affirmed that we believed sufficient progress has been made" in fighting corruption to allow aid to be transferred before Trump's freeze.

The Government Accountability Office later found the administration's decision to block that aid was a violation of federal law.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.