Amid the US impeachment scandal that has ensnared Ukraine, a top official from the Zelensky government said Friday that his country is only seeking fair treatment from the United States and stressed the strong relationship between the two countries.
Dmytro Kuleba, the deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration – whose visit to Washington coincided with the House Judiciary Committee’s markup and vote on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump – downplayed the impact that those developments could have on US-Ukraine relations. Instead he highlighted the importance of the alliance.
“My point is very simple: There may be big politics, there may be turmoils, but the strategic nature of our relationship with the United States remains unshattered and we will be moving forward,” Kuleba said at the offices of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a nonpartisan research center on transatlantic issues.
Kuleba, the first Zelensky official to visit the US capital, said he had met with House and Senate lawmakers and members of the National Security Council and the State Department, including Under Secretary of State David Hale, who testified last month before the House Intelligence Committee in the impeachment inquiry. Kuleba described his meetings as “very friendly.”
“All we are asking from our colleagues in the US administration is fair treatment,” Kuleba said. “We don’t want to be shamed and blamed. We just need a fair, balanced look on what Ukraine has accomplished, where Ukraine stands and where Ukraine is moving.”
The deputy prime minister expressed his appreciation for the long-standing support of the United States, particularly amid the conflict with Russia. He stressed that the US and Ukraine are “natural allies.”
“We never compromised the United States since our independence in 1991,” he said, “and we cannot imagine the horror where the United States will compromise us.”
Whether US foreign policy toward Ukraine was compromised for the sake of political motivations was at the crux of the House impeachment probe, in which Ukraine became a central but unwitting figure. The Trump administration held up hundreds of millions in security aid to the former Soviet nation, allegedly as collateral for Ukraine to undertake investigations into the US President’s political rivals, like Joe Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president.
The Trump administration says it held the aid because of concerns about corruption in Ukraine – a long-standing problem that US administrations have sought to address. On Friday, Kuleba emphasized that the Zelensky government was “absolutely serious” about fighting corruption and instituting reforms.
Kuleba also said the issues of investigations, Biden and the President’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani did not come up in his meetings in Washington.
“No one mentioned it to me and – as you can imagine – nor did I mention it,” Kuleba said, adding that the conversations were “exclusively” focused on the bilateral relationship.
In addition to the security aid, an Oval Office visit for newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky was at play in the Trump administration’s alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. That visit has yet to happen, although Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the second time earlier this week.
Kuleba said Friday that they “are working on organizing a full-fledged visit of President Zelensky to the United States.”
“The invitation was extended by President Trump to President Zelensky in the immediate aftermath of the elections,” he said.
However, when asked if they had nailed down a date for the visit, Kuleba said they had not.
“No, we are talking.” he said. “The invitation is there and everything else has to be agreed through diplomatic channels,” he said.