Ukraine’s president says the Capitol attack makes it hard for the world to see the US as a ‘symbol of democracy’

Volodymyr Zelensky Donald Trump
President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the January 6 Capitol attack was a “strong blow” to American democracy.
  • “After something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the US as a symbol of democracy,” he told Axios.
  • Zelensky was at the center of President Donald Trump’s first impeachment in late 2019 and early 2020. 
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a new interview with Axios that aired Sunday said that the violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 greatly tarnished the world’s image of the US.

Asked how he felt as he watched the Capitol attack from afar, Zelensky said he was “very shocked” and “could not imagine that something like this was possible in the US.” He described the deadly insurrection as a “strong blow” to American democracy.

“In Ukraine, we lived through two revolutions … we understood such things can happen in the world,” Zelensky said. “But that it could happen in the United States? No one expected that … I was very worried … I did not want you to have a coup.”

President Donald Trump provoked the violent insurrection involving his supporters at the Capitol as he continued an effort to overturn the 2020 election based on groundless allegations of mass voter fraud. Five people died in the riots.

“After something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the US as a symbol of democracy,” Zelensky said.

This interview came roughly a year after Zelensky was at the center of a major political drama in the US: Trump’s first impeachment.

During an infamous July 2019 phone call, Trump pressured Zelensky to launch an investigation into then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump was urging his Ukrainian counterpart to begin an inquiry into baseless allegations that Biden used his influence as vice president in the Obama administration to shield his son from a legal probe in Ukraine. Trump also wanted Zelensky to look into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

The call took place as Trump withheld millions of dollars of congressionally-approved military aid to Kiev, which heavily relies on US assistance amid an ongoing war with Kremlin-supported separatists in eastern Ukraine. 

Trump was ultimately impeached in the House in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in relation to his Ukraine dealings, but acquitted in the Senate in February 2020. After the Capitol siege in January, Trump was impeached a second time for inciting the insurrection. Though Trump has left the White House and is no longer president, his impeachment trial is set to begin on February 9.

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