Ukrainian President Says Trump Pledged to Help Him Take Crimea Back From Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that President Donald Trump pledged to help him take back the peninsula of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014 in the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution.

This week has already been dominated by revelations from conversations between the two presidents, with a July phone call between the two men prompting an impeachment investigation into the president.

A Trump commitment on Crimea would complicate the issue further, given the allegations that Trump offered Zelensky a quid pro quo of U.S. support and military aid in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation into 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Such a pledge would also inflame opinion in Russia, which now considers Crimea part of the nation and those living there Russian citizens, despite objections from the international community.

Following their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Zelensky told reporters that he and Trump discussed the contested Crimean peninsula, Unian reported. Zelensky said he told his counterpart that "Crimea is a beautiful place" and "it is a large beautiful part of our country."

"It seems to me, and I heard that he agrees that this is our native land and we will get it back," Zelensky told journalists. The president claimed that Trump told him, "Yes, you need to work, and we will help you."

Trump has previously angered Ukrainians by reportedly suggesting that Crimea is Russian territory because the majority language there is Russian. Zelensky appears to have addressed the error when meeting the commander in chief this week.

"You know there were statements that if people there speak Russian, it is no longer Ukraine, Zelensky told reporters. "I explained to him that this is our land; we have no issues about communication or language. We have a state language, and it's Ukrainian."

In the official White House transcript of the meeting, Trump stressed that Crimea was annexed while President Barack Obama was in office. "I think it was handled poorly," Trump said. "But it's just one of those things."

Trump's relationship with Zelensky—a political novice propelled into office in a landslide election win in April—has come under scrutiny in recent days, amid allegations that he asked Zelensky to open an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter.

Trump and his allies allege that Biden abused his position as vice president when visiting the country in 2016, pressuring the government to close an investigation into the Burisma gas company, for which Hunter used to work.

In May, Ukraine's top prosecutor told Bloomberg he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden or his father, but this has not stopped Trump and his supporters from launching repeated attacks against the former vice president.

On Wednesday, the White House released a memo detailing part of the July phone call between Trump and Zelensky. The edited read-out showed that after the two men discussed military aid for Ukraine, Trump pressured the new president to launch a probe into potential wrongdoing by Biden.

The White House is now facing calls to release the full transcript of the conversation, while the anonymous whistleblower who first raised concerns about the conversation has agreed to testify to congressional lawmakers.

Ukraine, Russia, Crimea, Donald Trump, Volodymyr Zelensky
President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shake hands during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images/Getty