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Ukraine president Zelensky calls controversial Donald Trump call 'normal'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky listens during a meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP New York, United States Sep 26, 2019, 01.33 AM (IST)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted Wednesday he had not been "pushed" by Donald Trump during a controversial phone call in which the US president urged an investigation of his political rival.

"We had -- I think (a) good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things, and... so I think and you read it that nobody pushed me," Zelensky told reporters, with Trump sitting at his side.

The two met on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting after Democrats launched an impeachment investigation into Trump, alleging he abused his powers as president for personal political ends.   

The July 25 call summary -- which is not a verbatim transcript -- shows Trump saying US Attorney General Bill Barr and the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani would be in touch about probing the Ukraine-related activities of Biden and his son.

'A disgraceful thing'

In announcing the launch of impeachment proceedings on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump had betrayed his oath of office in seeking Ukraine's help to find dirt on Biden.

Faced with the possibility of becoming the third US president in history to be impeached, Trump has pushed back hard -- branding the probe the "single greatest witch hunt in American history... a disgraceful thing." 

Pelosi had long resisted pressure from the party rank-and-file for impeachment, preferring to focus on next year's election fight.

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday said that only 37 per cent of voters support impeaching Trump while 57 per cent oppose, even if more than half disapprove of the US leader's performance.

But on Tuesday, Pelosi abandoned months of resistance, 11 days after news that an anonymous US intelligence official had filed a whistleblower complaint on Trump's alleged double-dealing with Ukraine.

Democrats made clear the White House's release of the call record would not satisfy their investigation into whether the US leader broke the law.

They are demanding the full release of the whistleblower complaint, even as the Justice Department declared that it showed no wrongdoing and said, "no further action was warranted."

The next explosive episode in the rapidly unfolding impeachment drama is set for Thursday when acting director of national intelligence Joseph McGuire, who has refused to release the complaint, testifies on Capitol Hill.

Story highlights

A defiant Trump insisted he had exerted 'no pressure' on Kiev -- a claim echoed by Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, who appeared side-by-side with the US president at a long-planned meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.