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US envoy did not link Biden probe to aid: Ukrainian FM

AFP
Kiev
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko on Thursday said US envoy Gordon Sondland did not tell him aid to Kiev depended on opening a probe into Donald Trump’s potential 2020 rival Joe Biden.
Democrats accused Trump and his allies of freezing some $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to get President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Biden and his son.
Trump has dismissed the allegations that led to the opening of an impeachment inquiry into his presidency as a “witch hunt”.
Sondland, America’s Trump-appointed ambassador to the European Union, this month gave key testimony to the impeachment inquiry that he told a Ukraine official US military aid was contingent on Kiev investigating Biden.
“Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and for sure did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations,” Prystaiko told journalists in Kiev.
Sondland told Ukrainian officials in Washington on July 10 that a summit between Zelensky and Trump was conditional on the desired investigations into Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, witnesses told the inquiry.
On Wednesday, William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, during televised hearings in the Democratic-led House of Representatives said he had become aware of a telephone call between Trump and Sondland, which a member of Taylor’s staff overheard.
The staffer said Trump was interested in getting Kiev to investigate Biden and his son and reiterated the understanding that US aid to Kiev would be suspended until it launched the probe.
“I have never seen a direct relationship between the investigations and help in the security sphere,” Prystaiko was quoted as saying by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
“Yes, the investigations were mentioned, you know, in conversation between the presidents. But there was no clear connection between these events.”

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