FIRST ON FOX — Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy blasted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over his request for additional funding from the U.S. in order to conduct its own election during its war with Russia, calling it a "ballot box shakedown."
"Zelenskyy’s veiled threat to forgo democratic elections in Ukraine unless the American people foot the bill and cough up another $135 million in funding represents a new level of extortion of the United States," Ramaswamy said in a press release first obtained by Fox News Digital.
"Our nation is being duped by a leader in Ukraine willing to sacrifice his own nation’s credibility as a ‘democracy’ in a gambit to secure even more money from U.S. taxpayers. This is wrong."
The political outsider said that while Russian President Vladimir Putin has "acted in a craven manner, but that shouldn’t trick the U.S. establishment into adopting the false narrative that Zelenskyy is a paragon of democratic leadership. He is not."
"In a span of just two years, Zelenskyy has made moves that bear a striking resemblance to the tactics employed by Vladimir Putin: Zelenskyy’s actions include the banning of 11 opposition parties and the consolidation of all state media into a single entity. These actions not only mirror Putin’s refusal to register opposition parties but also extensive government control over the media landscape," Ramaswamy said. "We have more than fulfilled U.S. commitments to Ukraine in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, even as we have badly violated James Baker’s February 1990 ‘Not One Inch’ commitment to the Soviet Union’s then-President Mikhail Gorbachev about limiting NATO expansion."
If elected president, Ramaswamy vowed that the U.S. "will be Uncle Sucker no more."
"With over $135 billion in funding already provided, Ukraine should easily be able to allocate 0.1 percent of that to pay for their election," Ramaswamy wrote. "Of course, the mainstream media and the establishment will say that any money the U.S. sends to support Ukraine is strictly ‘itemized and audited’ so that it can’t be used that way. This is a joke funnier than any Zelenskyy could have written in his prior career as a comedian. Don’t forget that in June, the Pentagon itself discovered an ‘accounting error’ that artificially created an extra $6.2 billion for Ukraine without Congressional approval. The notion that all money and military equipment being sent to Ukraine is being carefully tracked is deeply dishonest. Americans deserve the TRUTH."
Ramaswamy's condemnation of Zelenskyy's request comes after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during his recent visit to the war-torn nation, expressed his desire to see Ukraine conduct its own election next year.
"We need an election in Ukraine next year. I want to see this country have a free and fair election even while it is under assault," Graham said, recalling his conversation with Zelenskyy.
In a recent interview, Zelenskyy said, "I gave Lindsey a very simple answer very quickly" and estimated that elections during peacetime cost 5 billion hryvnia, or $135 million, saying, "I don't know how much is needed in wartime."
"So, I told him that if the U.S. and Europe provide financial support …" Zelenskyy said about his conversation with Graham, adding, "I will not take money from weapons and give it to elections. And this is stipulated by the law."