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Ukraine Didn’t Realize U.S. Withheld Aid Until One Month After Trump Call: Report

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy listens during a bilateral meeting with President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, September 25, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials were unaware that the U.S. had held up military aid to the country until late August, one month after a phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, according to a Wednesday report from BuzzFeed.

The conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelentsky is at the center of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats into the president.

The report appears to undercut the allegation that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Zelensky to conduct investigations that would damage presidential candidate Joe Biden.

It appears that at the time of the July conversation between the two leaders, Zelentsky, along with officials in his government, believed that the U.S. still intended to deliver $391 million in aid from the Pentagon and the State Department to help fund its ongoing war against Russian separatists in the Ukraine’s east.

However, in mid-July, a week before the conversation, Trump had instructed White House chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney to withhold the aid package. The Ukrainians only learned of the decision in late August, according to Olena Zerkal, then acting foreign minister for Ukraine, who currently serves as deputy foreign minister.

An anonymous U.S. official said that the Trump administration hadn’t informed Ukraine of its decision because it thought the issues causing the holdup were close to resolution.

Zelensky said on Tuesday that “it wasn’t explained to me” why the aid package hadn’t been transferred to Ukraine, although he didn’t clarify at what point he found out about the delay.

Ukraine has relied on U.S. aid throughout the war on its eastern border region and the country’s officials became concerned when they learned of the delay.

“Yes, of course, we were worried, because actually we didn’t find any plausible reason” for the delay, said Oleksiy Semeniy, an aide to the former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksandr Danylyuk.

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