One of the people close to the Zelensky administration said the silence from White House—combined with Lavrov’s photo-friendly visit to Washington—sent “a terrible signal” and was “most unfortunate.” According to a read-out of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov, the president “urged Russia to resolve the conflict with Ukraine.” The Ukrainian official called the episode “frustrating.” Ukrainians say they view the coupling of Trump’s pre-Normandy silence and the administration’s decision to welcome Lavrov as a signal in an of itself—and not a good one.
Zelensky administration officials are now reconsidering their strategy on communication with and about the Trump administration, the official said. Thus far, Zelensky administration officials have stayed in line with the Trump administration’s narrative on the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine activity and the focuses of the impeachment inquiry. But they say they have little to show for it, and may take a different public relations strategy in the future.
A Time interview
published earlier this week captured Kyiv’s willingness to publicly bolster Trump’s version of events. Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, contradicted a key assertion that European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland made in congressional testimony last month. Sondland had said he pulled Yermak aside during an event in Warsaw and urged him to have Kyiv announce Trump-friendly investigations. Yermak, meanwhile, told Time that no such conversation happened. The statement was a body blow to a key impeachment witness’s testimony, though Sondland’s lawyer said he stood by his description of events.
In a separate interview
, Zelensky said he did not speak to Trump in terms of “you give me this, I give you that.” Trump tweeted out a link
to the interview and thanked Zelensky for the comment.
Trump’s relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a key focus of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The inquiry began after an anonymous Intelligence Committee official filed a whistleblower complaint in August alleging that Trump pressured Zelensky to announce investigations of a company linked to the Bidens and of alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election. The complaint said that Trump was withholding military aid from Ukraine until those investigations were announced. Trump has vehemently denied allegations that withholding the military aid—which happened for a short time at his orders—was part of a pressure campaign. Sondland, meanwhile, told Congress that the administration was explicit that it refused to arrange a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky until Kyiv announced the two investigations.
After weeks of closed-door depositions and hearings, Pelosi announced the introduction of two articles of impeachment based on Trump’s pressure on Ukraine. House Democrats are expected to vote on those articles as soon as next week. If they pass—which is extremely likely—then they will be referred to the Senate for a trial.