KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has found himself center stage since the controversy broke out over his phone call with President Donald Trump, but on Tuesday he briefly got an unlikely co-star—Tom Cruise.
The star of the "Top Gun" and "Mission Impossible" movies, met with Zelenskiy on Monday while on a trip to Ukraine to scout possible locations for an upcoming film, according to Zelenskiy’s office.
Zelenskiy hosted Cruise at his presidential headquarters in Kyiv late Monday night.
“You’re good-looking!” Zelenskiy told Cruise as he walked in, according to video excepts released by his office on Tuesday. The actor laughed and replied, “It pays the bills.”
Zelenskiy, an actor himself who played the president in a TV show before being elected the real thing in April, joked with Cruise about how exhausting it is being president and talked about steps his government was taking to attract foreign film producers.
He also spoke about efforts to end the five-year war in Ukraine’s east.
The excerpts did not make any mention of whether the two discussed the current controversy that Zelenskiy has found himself embroiled in the United States that has seen Democrats open an impeachment inquiry into Trump over allegations from a whistleblower that Trump sought to pressure Zelenskiy into investigating his potential Democratic presidential rival in 2020, Joe Biden.
Zelenskiy has largely tried to avoid making public statements on the scandal since it erupted two weeks ago. While in New York at the United Nations General Assembly last week, he refused interviews and mostly tried to dodge reporters.
The complaint submitted by a whistle-blower inside the government alleged Trump may have tried to use his office to coerce Zelenskiy into investigating Biden during a call on July 25. The complaint alleges Trump may have sought to create leverage by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine intended to help it defend itself against Russia.
A transcript of the call which the White House released after the complaint’s existence became public, showed Trump asking Zelenskiy to do “us a favor” and work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Trump and his allies have accused Biden of abusing his power as vice president by pushing Ukraine’s government to fire its prosecutor general in 2015, claiming that the move was meant to shield his son, Hunter Biden, from investigation.
In reality, no evidence has emerged to support that allegation and in fact the firing of the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was also demanded at the time by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, as well as anti-corruption activists in Ukraine. One of the reasons given for demanding Shokin's removal at the time was actually his office's failure to investigate the energy company, Burisma, where Hunter Biden was a board member and which has become the focus of Trump’s claims.
A senior former Ukrainian law enforcement official last week told ABC News, the allegations against Biden lacked a real basis and had been developed by Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, in an attempt to protect his position before he was fired this summer . Lutsenko himself this week told multiple news media that Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws.
Zelenskiy has denied feeling any pressure from Trump during the call, telling a press conference in New York last week, “We had a good phone call … It was normal. You read it. Nobody pushed me.”
Zelenskiy on Monday told reporters that he would have no role in opening any investigation into Biden or his son.
“We are open, we are ready to investigate,” he said, but “it has nothing to do with me. Our independent law enforcement agencies are ready to investigate any case in which the law was broken.”