Post impeachment, Ukraine wants back on Trump's radar, foreign minister says

By Pamela Falk

/ CBS News

Justice Department to review Ukraine probe

United Nations — With the impeachment cloud lifted, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters at the U.N. he will travel to Washington on Friday to meet with Trump administration officials to "advance" relations between the two nations.

"We will discuss how now we can — now that it's not clouded by any impeachment inquiries — advance our relationships, which are in a great shape, but we want to have more than that," Prystaiko said.

Ukraine wants to be back on Washington's radar

Ukraine's top diplomat said that his country was constantly mired in internal politics of the U.S. during the impeachment inquiry, and now he hopes to move on to improve relations: "We're happy that impeachment is over because we've been constantly dragged into internal politics of the United States, which we don't want to be a part of, and we were never a part of this."

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During the impeachment inquiry, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and his foreign minister were drawn into the impeachment inquiry of President Trump and at the time, Prystaiko said the last thing Ukraine needs is to be involved in "problems at the other end of the world" while dealing with its war with Russia-backed separatists.

John Bolton says Trump tied Ukraine aid to Biden investigation

Impeachment questions also affected Zelensky back home. In November, the office of Ukraine's president denied a request from a political rival to release its records of a July 25 call between Zelensky and Mr. Trump — a call that, in the U.S., was at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

The Trump administration withheld $391 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine that Democrats alleged was a "quid pro quo" for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. The money was released by Congress. Mr. Trump was subsequently impeached by the House of Representatives and acquitted in the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

Russia-Ukraine conflict drags on

Vadym Prystaiko
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko seen February 4, 2020. Getty

The Ukrainian foreign minister talked to reporters after a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Russia's occupation of Crimea and other parts of Ukrainian territory. The meeting, called by Ukraine, was entitled, "On the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine."

Ukraine's foreign minister told the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly that "7% of the territory of Ukraine is now under foreign occupation in blatant violation of the U.N. Charter."

He added that more than 14,000 people have been killed and more than 27,000 wounded, with 2 million residents of Crimea and Donbas forced to flee their homes.

"The dire humanitarian situation in the conflict-affected areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions continues to deteriorate," Prystaiko said.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia responded in the General Assembly Hall: "There are no "temporarily occupied territories" in Ukraine.

"If the Ukrainian delegation refers to Crimea, then this is a subject of the Russian Federation, which became such in 2014 as a result of a referendum," Nebenzia said.

The meetings at the U.N. took place as Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists renewed fighting.

Prystaiko said that he was raising the idea again of a U.N. peacekeeping force for Ukraine with the Secretary General, in response to a CBS News question, but added that Russia has said "no" to the proposal.

The back and forth between diplomats from Russia and Ukraine came a day after a testy U.N. Security Council meeting at which the U.N. Under Secretary General Rosemary DiCarlo told the 15-nation Council that "3.4 million people along the contact line still require humanitarian assistance and protection."

First published on February 20, 2020 / 5:56 PM

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Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.