World

Lev Parnas says Trump knew about campaign to pressure Ukraine

WASHINGTON: A close associate of US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer says he delivered an ultimatum in May last year to the incoming president of Ukraine that no senior US officials would attend his inauguration and American aid to the war-torn country would be withheld if an investigation into Mr Joe Biden was not announced.

Lev Parnas, an associate of Mr Rudy Giuliani, made several potentially explosive claims in a televised interview on Wednesday night.

The day after Parnas said he delivered the message, the US State Department announced that Vice-President Mike Pence would no longer be attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Parnas alleged that Mr Trump ordered Mr Pence to stay away at the behest of Mr Giuliani to send a clear message to the incoming Ukrainian administration that it needed to take seriously the demand for an investigation into Mr Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Parnas said every communication he had with Mr Zelensky's team was at the direction of Mr Giuliani, whom he regularly overheard briefing Mr Trump about their progress by phone.

"President Trump knew exactly what was going on," said Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman facing a raft of criminal charges related to campaign finance violations.

"He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President."

Mr Giuliani called Parnas' statements "sad".

"I feel sorry for him," Mr Giuliani said in a text message to an AP reporter. "I thought he was an honourable man. I was wrong."

Asked directly if Parnas was lying, Mr Giuliani replied, "I am not responding yet." - AP

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