Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Capitol riots last month damaged the United States’ reputation as a pillar of democracy.
Speaking to “Axios on HBO” in an interview released Monday, Zelensky made the comments when asked for his reaction to the Jan. 6 insurrection, which he said left him “shocked.”
“I was very surprised. I could not have imagined that something like this was possible in the United States of America,” Zelensky told the outlet, going on to warn, “I believe this was a strong blow to democracy of the United States.”
Using an interpreter, the Ukrainian leader went on to explain how the riots changed his, and possibly others’, perception of the US as a safely democratic institution.
“We are used to seeing in books, in films, in television, we are used to believing that the United States has the ideal democratic institutions, where power is transferred calmly, without war, without revolutions. Power is passed from one presidency to another,” Zelensky said, “We saw it in Ukraine. In Ukraine, we lived through two revolutions. We saw it. We understood such things can happen in the world.”
“But that it could happen in the United States? No one expected that, and this says that not everything is ideal.”
Asked if it was correct to characterize his reaction to the riots as “disturbed,” Zelensky offered a different, albeit still negative take.
“I was very worried,” he said, repeating his words twice. “I did not want you to have a coup, a shooting or God forbid loss of life. It is just that after something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy.”
Members of Congress were forced to evacuate in gas masks after a violent mob of Trump supporters overpowered Capitol Police and breached the building as lawmakers were in the process of certifying President Biden’s electoral win.
The siege resulted in five deaths, including the killing of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Two other Capitol Police officers have committed suicide in the weeks that followed.
The Ukrainian president also told the outlet he was hoping to reset US-Ukraine relations under the new administration, which were frayed under former President Donald Trump, though he noted that he and Biden had yet to meet.
It was Zelensky who then-President Trump urged during their infamous July 2019 phone call to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, who was at the time battling 25 other candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Trump also referenced Biden’s son Hunter who sat on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company heavily involved in corruption.
In September 2019, it was revealed that a whistleblower complaint had been filed against the president, which the commander-in-chief responded to by releasing the transcript of his call with Zelensky.
Democrats at the time said Trump entered a quid pro quo by requesting during the call that Zelensky launch an investigation into the Bidens while withholding $400 million in much-needed military aid and an already promised White House meeting.
Republicans, meanwhile, argued that allegations against the Bidens were damning enough to merit Trump asking for a probe, regardless of his candidacy for president.
Hunter Biden has been accused of profiting off his father’s vice presidential status by earning tens of thousands of dollars per month to sit on a board for a corrupt company in an industry in which he had no prior experience.
Trump went on to be impeached in a party-line vote in the House over the Zelensky phone call, but was later acquitted in the Senate trial on the matter.
After audio recordings of a Nov. 2016 phone call between Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was leaked in May 2020, which showed the two then-ex leaders discussing what the then-vice president could and couldn’t tell the incoming Trump administration, Zelensky called for a probe into who leaked the call.
During the calls, Poroshenko and Biden also discussed the US providing $1 billion in aid to Ukraine once its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was replaced.
At the time, Vice President Biden pushed for Ukraine to fire Shokin, which he says was because Shokin was not doing enough to fight corruption in the former Soviet republic.
Biden’s convoluted international business dealings became a heated political issue in the final months of the 2020 presidential campaign after The Post revealed a trove of emails from Hunter’s laptop that raised questions about then-candidate Joe Biden’s ties to his son’s foreign business ventures, including Burisma.
The Ukrainian energy company reportedly paid Hunter $50,000 a month between 2014 and 2019 to sit on its board of directors. Hunter Biden is also accused of promoting the interests of CEFC China Energy Co, a Chinese conglomerate that was to pay him more than $10 million a year for introductions to officials in Washington.
Last year, a federal watchdog called on the Department of Justice to launch “a full investigation” of Hunter Biden, who they claim did not register under federal Foreign Agent Registration Act rules that govern those lobbying for a foreign entity.
“Hunter Biden’s tangled web of shell companies, LLCs, investment vehicles, and options agreements make it virtually impossible to know where he is getting income from,” said Thomas Anderson, director for the National Legal Policy Center, adding that circumventing the FARA regulations allowed Biden and his associates to operate under the radar.
Both Joe and Hunter Biden have continued to deny any wrongdoing.