The outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Lana Zerkal, has criticized the New York Times for quoting her out of context. The author of the story and Zerkal’s interviewer, reporter Andrew E. Kramer, claimed that Zerkal said that the Ukrainian government knew of the U.S. aid freeze back in July, before or on the day of the July 25 phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.S. President Donald Trump. The media and the general public only learned about the freeze in August.
The article, written by Kramer, stresses that the timing of when Ukraine found out is “critical” in the impeachment hearings in Congress. It also claimed that Zerkal’s visit to Washington was cancelled because Zelenskyy’s advisors were worried about her discussing Zelenskyy-Trump matters, an issue Ukraine’s government avoided discussing in public.
The New York Times article claims that Zerkal gave them a detailed account of when Ukraine’s senior officials learned about the freeze. This was “at least by July 25,” Kramer writes, adding that this timeline was backed by the American deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Laura K. Cooper. Zerkal was also allegedly asked to keep quiet about the affair, according to the interview that the publication cites.
However, Zerkal, in a Facebook post she wrote on December 4, disproved the information given by the article claiming that she was misquoted. She also provided her answers to Kramer’s questions in a written form in English.
“What was written in the article is misleading as it implies that colleagues and I were privy to specific information,” Zerkal writes on Facebook.
She claims that she gave some comments, specifically the ones about the aid freeze, off-the-record and accused Kramer of “non-professionalism.”
“Though being very clear that this was off-the-record, the journalist chose to quote me directly on this. The journalist then went on to email – the day after publication – seeking ‘permission’ to quote what we had agreed were off-the-record comments,” Zerkal wrote in her open letter.
In response to Zerkal's accusations, the New York Times published a statement that reads that they "stand by [their] reporting which includes direct quotes from Zerkal about what transpired."
In a telephone comment to Hromadske International, Kramer said that he backs this statement and his original article.
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