Former Zelensky adviser: Ukraine 'understood' discussing Biden was condition for talking to Trump

A former adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was made obvious to Ukrainian officials that President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE would communicate with them only if they agreed to discuss former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE’s son Hunter Biden, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

"Ukrainian officials were asking for a meeting with Trump for along time. As I remember, it was a clear fact that Trump wants to meet only if Biden case will be included," said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine's parliament, told ABC. "This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood."

Leshchenko, however, later disputed ABC's characterization of his remarks, saying he only learned of any quid pro quo arrangement with the White House through media reports.


The White House on Wednesday released notes summarizing a call between the two leaders in which Trump encouraged Zelensky to collaborate with both his personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani again suspended from YouTube over false election claims Sacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Biden administration buys 100,000 doses of Lilly antibody drug MORE and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMajority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Justice Department renews investigation into George Floyd's death: report MORE on investigating whether Joe Biden influenced the firing of then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

The call is the subject of a whistleblower complaint released to Congress on Wednesday, and it prompted House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-Calif.) to announce the House would begin an impeachment inquiry Tuesday.

Leshchenko told ABC News that in Ukraine, the proposed investigation was encouraged by Shokin’s successor, Yuri Lutsenko, who Leshchenko said sought out Giuliani to seek protection from the U.S. because he was concerned Zelensky would dismiss him as prosecutor general.

"We understood that he was just trying to protect his position in the new administration using this scandal," Leshchenko said. "And he put Ukraine on this battlefield."

Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko told ABC that to his knowledge, no request for an investigation had been made through formal channels.

“If there will be a request from the American side, we’ll look at it,” he said.  

—Updated Friday at 11:09 a.m.