First Ukrainian official publicly acknowledges senior officials knew about aid freeze during Trump pressure campaign

Tim O'Donnell

Ukraine sure is in a tough spot.

Ukraine's former Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal — who said she resigned last week to protest Kyiv's diplomacy with both Washington and Moscow — became the first Ukrainian official to publicly acknowledge Ukrainian higher-ups were aware that the U.S. froze Ukrainian military during the Trump administration's campaign to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating President Trump's domestic political rivals, The New York Times reports. Trump has said Ukraine "didn't even know the money wasn't paid," arguing that Kyiv couldn't have felt pressure over something they weren't aware of.

But Zerkal now says she knew about the freeze by July 30, just a few days after the infamous phone call between Trump and Zelensky which spurred the impeachment inquiry. That backs up earlier congressional testimony from U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia who said diplomats knew about the freeze by the time of the phone call.

While it's unclear which senior Ukrainian officials knew about the freeze (Zelensky said he didn't learn about it until before a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on Sept. 1), Zerkal said she was instructed to "keep silent" about impeachment in general, likely out of fear of angering the Trump administration since the country is still relying on the U.S. for aid.

BuzzFeed News previously reported that Zerkal said Ukraine learned about the holdup in late August, about a month after the phone call. Perhaps something jogged her memory, or maybe she's just speaking more freely after her resignation. Read more at The New York Times.



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