Trump’s interest stirring Ukraine investigations sows confusion in Kiev
MOSCOW — As President Trump and his inner circle appear increasingly focused on Ukraine as a potential tripwire for Joe Biden and Democrats, officials about to take power in Kiev are pushing their own message: Leave us out of it.
Supporters of Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky — who is expected to take office in the coming weeks — said in interviews Saturday that they feared they were being pulled into a domestic political conflict in the United States, potentially at Ukraine’s expense.
Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Friday he was canceling a trip to Ukraine in which he was planning to push for investigations that include Biden’s son, Hunter, and his time on the board of a Ukraine gas company.
Giuliani said he was calling off the trip because there were “enemies” of Trump on the team of Zelensky, a comedian with no previous political experience who toppled President Petro Poroshenko in a runoff election last month.
Zelensky — who played Ukraine’s president on a popular TV show — has pledged to fight corruption and push to end the war against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. But maintaining a close relationship with Washington also is critical.
Many Ukrainian officials also see U.S. support as a key deterrent preventing Russian President Vladimir Putin from encroaching further on their territory. Western diplomats in Kiev have voiced concerns that Zelensky, given his lack of political experience, could be outmatched in negotiations with Putin.
Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament and prominent Zelensky backer, said Ukraine is being drawn into a “dangerous game.”
A person close to Zelensky said the president-elect’s team viewed Trump’s interest in the investigations as a domestic U.S. matter and was determined not to let it distract from his agenda.
“This is definitely not our war,” the person close to Zelensky said. “We have to stay away from this as much as possible.”
The person said Zelensky would rule out using political pressure to lean on Ukrainian law enforcement to achieve any White House aims. This person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
One investigation that has attracted Trump and Giuliani’s interest involves a Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served while his father was vice president. Trump said Friday that it would be “appropriate” for him to talk to Attorney General William Barr about opening an investigation over the matter into Joe Biden, the current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But Giuliani told Fox News later on Friday that he was canceling his trip to Ukraine because he had learned that Zelensky was surrounded by foes of Trump.