Ukraine shuns US political battles, foreign minister says

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko speaks during his and Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics joint news conference following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine doesn’t want to be dragged into U.S. political battles, the nation’s foreign minister said Monday.

A July 25 phone call in which U.S. President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate hoping to challenge Trump next year, has triggered a congressional impeachment inquiry.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor said Friday that his office is reviewing several cases related to the owner of Ukrainian gas company Burisma where Biden’s son sat on the board, but noted that he wasn’t aware of any evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko emphasized Monday that prosecutors act independently and the government has nothing to do with the probe.

“The inquiries into Burisma and other companies must be conducted without government involvement,” he said.

Prystaiko emphasized that Ukraine wants to stay away from the U.S. political uproar.

“The last thing we want is getting dragged into U.S. domestic politics,” he said at a briefing after talks with his Latvian counterpart. “That would be really damaging to us.”

The publication of the rough transcript of the call with Trump has dented the image of Zelenskiy, a comedian with no previous political experience who was elected by a landslide in April on promises to end the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the east and combat rampant official corruption.

In a careful balancing act, the Ukrainian leader has repeatedly denied that he was pressured by Trump while emphasizing that Ukrainian prosecutors are reviewing past criminal cases and could cooperate with their counterparts in the United States in an apparent attempt to remain in the good graces of the White House.

Several of the cases under audit in Ukraine are related to Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma which hired Hunter Biden in 2014, the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Ukraine.

Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

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