Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal on Nov. 12. Photo: Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ukraine's former deputy foreign minister Olena Zerkal told the New York Times in an interview that Ukraine's government was aware of the Trump administration's decision to freeze military aid in July.

Why it matters: Zerkal’s account is the first acknowledgment from a Ukrainian official that the government knew Trump was withholding security assistance as early as July, supporting a similar revelation from Pentagon official Laura Cooper's public testimony last month.

  • It could undercut a key defense from Trump allies that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky could not have felt pressured to carry out investigations into Trump's political rivals because he was not aware of the frozen aid.
  • Zerkal's account also acknowledges that the Zelensky administration tried to prevent the Trump administration's pressure campaign from surfacing to avoid getting sucked into domestic U.S. politics.

Details: As deputy foreign minister, Zerkal reviewed diplomatic cables from embassies around the world. In July, she read a cable that said the Trump administration had frozen military aid to Ukraine.

  • Zerkal could not recall the exact date she read the cable, but she said asked for a meeting with a senior aide to Zelensky to discuss the freeze on July 30, according to the Times. She said her ministry received the cable at the same time as Zelensky's presidential administration.
  • Zerkal also said Zelensky's advisers blocked a trip she had planned to Washington to meet with members of Congress, fearing that she would discuss impeachment.
  • Zerkal said she resigned last week in protest of the Ukrainian government's "back channel diplomacy with both the Trump administration last summer and Russia this fall," according to the Times.

The big picture: Cooper said in her testimony that the Ukrainian Embassy had asked about the aid on July 25, hours after Trump's phone call with Zelensky.

  • Zelensky has said he was not aware of the freeze at the time of the call and never discussed military aid "from the position of a quid pro quo."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 20,620,847 — Total deaths: 748,416— Total recoveries: 12,770,718Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 5,197,000 — Total deaths: 166,026 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: America's two-sided COVID-19 response America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.

Bob Woodward's new book details letters between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Bob Woodward during a 2019 event in Los Angele. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Journalist Bob Woodward has obtained "25 personal letters exchanged" between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his new book, "Rage," publisher Simon & Schuster revealed on Wednesday.

Details: In the letters, "Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a 'fantasy film,' as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet," according to a description of the book posted on Amazon.

Dozens of Confederate symbols removed in wake of George Floyd's death

A statue of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis lies on the street after protesters pulled it down in Richmond, Virginia, in June. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce/AFP via Getty Images

59 Confederate symbols have been removed, relocated or renamed since anti-racism protests began over George Floyd's death, a new Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report finds.

Why it matters: That's a marked increase on previous years, per the report, which points out just 16 Confederate monuments were affected in 2019.