President Donald Trump urged the new leader of Ukraine this summer to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a person familiar with the matter said. Democrats condemned what they saw as a clear effort to damage a political rival, now at the heart of an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump. It was the latest revelation in an escalating controversy that has created a showdown between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration, which has refused to turn over the formal complaint by a national security official or even describe its contents. Trump defended himself Friday against the intelligence official’s complaint, angrily declaring it came from a “partisan whistleblower,” though he also said he didn’t know who had made it. The complaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to a two people familiar with the matter. The people were not authorized to discuss the issue by name and were granted anonymity. Trump, in that call, urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of potential Democratic rival Biden’s son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company, according to one of the people, who was briefed on the call. Trump did not raise the issue of U.S. aid to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo, according to the person. Joe Biden reacted strongly late Friday, saying that if the reports are true, “then there is truly no bottom to President
Ukraine’s new leader said he called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to urge him to help halt fighting in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he asked the Russian leader to “influence the other side so that they stop killing our people.” Zelenskiy’s call came a day after four Ukrainian soldiers were killed by pro-Russia insurgents. Separatist rebels said they were returning fire after Ukrainian shelling of a school. The Kremlin said in its take on the call that Putin emphasized that the Ukrainian troops should stop shelling residential areas since that results in civilian casualties. The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in April 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has killed more than 13,000 people. Germany and France helped broker a 2015 agreement signed in Minsk that helped reduce fighting, but clashes have continued and peace efforts have stalled. Zelenskiy, a comedian without political experience, was elected in a landslide in April on promises to end the conflict in the east and tackle rampant official corruption. He said Wednesday he expects to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day to push for a meeting with them and Putin to search for a peaceful settlement in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin, on the call with Zelenskiy, underlined the need for Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreement, including its provision of granting a special status to Ukraine’s separatist regions.
The party of Ukraine’s new president looks set to win Sunday’s snap parliamentary election, repeating Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s shock victory in the April presidential race that has upended politics in the war-scarred nation. Zelenskiy, a former comedian with no previous political experience, hopes his Servant of the People party can secure control of parliament by tapping into public anger over graft and low living standards in one of Europe’s poorest countries. At present, the 41-year-old leader shares power with a cabinet and lawmakers who are mostly loyal to his predecessor. Whoever wins the election will inherit a country at the centre of the West’s standoff with Moscow following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its role in a separatist conflict in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine that has killed 13,000 people in the past five years. Zelenskiy and his new government will also need to implement reforms agreed with international donors in order to secure billions of dollars of new loans and keep the economy stable. Servant of the People is named after the TV comedy series where Zelenskiy played a scrupulously honest history teacher who accidentally becomes president after a video of him ranting about corruption goes viral. He has burnished that image on the campaign trail and as president. In one of his first acts after taking office, Zelenskiy announced he was moving out of the presidential administration building as a symbolic break with the old way of doing politics – just as his fictitious
Television comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office as Ukraine’s new president on Monday, promising that as hard as he had worked in the past to make Ukrainians laugh, he would now work to keep them from crying. As his first act, he dismissed the parliament still dominated by loyalists of his defeated predecessor, setting up an election in two months in which his new party has a chance to win its first seats. The inauguration day was marked by informal moments that conveyed the outsider persona that helped carry the political novice to a landslide victory last month. He high-fived cheering supporters who held their arms outstretched outside the Soviet-era parliament building, and stopped for a selfie with the crowd. At one point he jumped up to kiss a man on the forehead. He later eschewed a motorcade to make his way to his new office on foot. “Dear people, during my life I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians smile,” he said in his speech to parliament. “In the next five years, I will do everything, Ukrainians, so that you do not cry.” Zelenskiy grew to national fame playing the role of a schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president after a pupil films him making a foul-mouthed tirade against corrupt politicians and posts the video online. His campaign exploited the parallels with that fictional narrative, portraying him as an everyman who would stand up to a crooked political class. In his inauguration speech, he called on officials