“We’re at war”, Volodymyr Zelensky told Time Magazine and three leading European publications in a joint, wide-ranging interview published on Monday morning. “If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us.”
“I think that’s just about fairness”, he added. “It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”
The rare interview came as the impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump entered a new phase this week, with the House Judiciary Committee effectively set to take over the process and consider drafting articles of impeachment against the US president. Mr Trump responded to the interview in a tweet, writing: "Breaking News: The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls. If the Radical Left Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!"
The inquiry was sparked when a whistleblower filed a complaint about Mr Trump’s 25 July phone call with Mr Zelensky, in which he asked Ukraine to “do us a favour” before urging him to investigate one of his 2020 political opponents, Joe Biden.
Key witnesses with first-hand information about that phone call and the administration’s Ukraine dealings testified in historic public hearings last month, describing an “irregular” channel conducting foreign policy for the White House that involved Mr Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and several of his closest advisers, including former Energy Secretary Rick Perry and US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.
The witnesses said the White House wanted Mr Zelensky to announce investigations into the Bidens and the origins of the Russia investigation led by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as the nearly $400m (£309.1m) in military aid was withheld and before it invited the Ukrainian president for a visit to the White House.
Mr Zelensky told the news outlets he “never talked to [Mr Trump] from the position of a quid pro quo”, adding: “That’s not my thing.”
He said he did not want his country to look like “beggars” while seeking the aid, which allows Ukraine to effectively battle Russian-backed forces in an ongoing conflict between the two countries.
The Ukrainian president also suggested he was not hopeful that a ceasefire with Russia would occur as the result of scheduled peace talks mediated by France and Germany. He did, however, describe the step as “already a victory” as Russian President Vladimir Putin was expected to attend the talks for the first time since 2016.
“I don’t trust anyone at all”, Mr Zelensky said. “I’ll tell you honestly. Politics is not an exact science … I don’t know these people. I can’t understand what dough they’re made of. That’s why I think nobody can have any trust. Everybody just has their interests."