HALIFAX — The former president of Ukraine confirmed Sunday he met with Rudy Giuliani in late 2017, but Petro Poroshenko told a security conference in Halifax he and President Donald Trump’s then-adviser talked only about U.S. support — and he insisted Giuliani did not ask for anything in return.
Poroshenko, who in April was defeated by Volodymyr Zelensky in a presidential election, said he spoke with Giuliani about increasing American support for the Ukrainian military, cybersecurity and financial reforms.
During a question and answer session at the annual Halifax International Security Forum, moderator Robin Shepherd asked Poroshenko if Giuliani had imposed any conditions on U.S. support.
Giuliani, a Trump ally who later became the president’s personal attorney, has been accused during the Trump impeachment inquiry of running a parallel diplomatic effort aimed at getting Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden — Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 U.S. election.
“Definitely, I cannot imagine this type of talks with me as a president of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told the moderator.
Poroshenko’s account of the meeting in October or November 2017 came under intense scrutiny at the forum because of the close connection between Ukrainian politics and the ongoing presidential impeachment inquiry in Washington.
The impeachment process started after an anonymous whistle-blower alleged that during a July 25 call, Trump told Zelensky he would withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky investigated Biden and his son Hunter.
The whistle-blower and other U.S. officials have accused Trump of using the power of his office to illegally solicit interference from a foreign country.
At the Halifax event, Poroshenko was asked if Giuliani mentioned Biden or Burisma, the Ukrainian natural-gas company that employed Hunter Biden.
“Definitely not, and it cannot be,” Poroshenko answered.
The former president was also asked about his White House meeting with Trump in June 2017.
“We talked about global co-operation and security sector and support for reforms,” Poroshenko said without elaborating.
Poroshenko’s role in the political intrigue surrounding Trump is expected to gain attention in the weeks ahead as one of Trump’s most vocal defenders — South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham — confirmed last week he is seeking documents related to Joe Biden’s communications with Ukrainian officials.
Graham’s inquiry is focused on any calls Biden may have had with Poroshenko regarding an investigation of Burisma.
Without citing any evidence, Trump has alleged Biden, as vice-president, pressured Ukrainian officials to fire the country’s lead prosecutor to protect his son.
Despite the political upheaval in Washington, Poroshenko was quick to praise Trump for providing military support to Ukraine as it continues to wage war with Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and has encouraged a pro-Kremlin insurgency along the country’s eastern flank.
In particular, Poroshenko said Trump’s decision to send Javelin anti-tank missiles has proven to be an effective deterrent to Russian tank commanders — even before the highly accurate weapons were deployed.
“All the Russian tanks on the occupied territory stopped appearing on the front,” Poroshenko said. “Russian tankers refused to sit in the tank because Ukraine had the Javelin. Our … casualties were significantly reduced because of this psychological factor.”
Poroshenko said the impeachment proceedings have created a global distraction that has benefited Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Now, we have switched attention away from Russia to Ukraine-Gate,” he told the forum. “Who has an interest in that? Ukraine? No. The United States? Definitely not. One man who sits in Moscow.”
As for the Crimea region, Poroshenko said he had no doubt it would one day regain its status as Ukrainian territory, and he renewed his drive to see Ukraine join the NATO military alliance.
Poroshenko said he was grateful for the support from the United States and Canada, saying these allies understand Ukrainians are fighting for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
He cited former prime minister Stephen Harper, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s former foreign affairs minister, whose Ukrainian roots were also mentioned.
“We should keep this solidarity … Don’t allow Putin to destabilize us,” he said.
“I have almost six years of communication with Putin. My strong piece of advice: Please, don’t trust Putin.”