The sensational statement by Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko made in an interview with The Hill, that the U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch demanded at a meeting with him to abandon the criminal prosecution of a number of officials, blew up both Ukrainian and American politics. In fact, Ukraine accused the United States of direct interference in internal affairs. However, Lutsenko simultaneously made a second sensational statement - Ukraine interfered with the United States internal affairs, mainly its presidential elections in 2016. According to the prosecutor general, Ukraine’s National Anticorruption Bureau chief Artem Sytnyk acted in this situation against Trump and in the interests of his rival – Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Ukraine will play an important role in upcoming scandals that will hit the political situation in the United States, but this time compromising material will affect not Trump, but the leadership of the Democratic Party.
An unprecedented case. President Poroshenko officially supported Ambassador Yovanovitch - but he did not slam Lutsenko’s statement.
A Censor.NET probe has revealed the Ukrainian government decided to support President Trump in a fight with his opponents from the Democratic Party provoked by the process against Paul Manafort.
"During the presidential elections in Ukraine, my main goal is Ukraine’s getting prospects for NATO membership. This is possible only with harmonious relations between the two presidents - Ukraine and U.S. Relations between heads of state require trust and honesty. Everything that interferes with relations between presidents Poroshenko and Trump must be discarded. I acted without any President Poroshenko’s consent, the interview with The Hill is my personal initiative," Lutsenko said in an exclusive comment for Censor.NET to explain the reasons for his speech criticizing Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and NABU’s chief.
According to our sources, Ukraine’s leadership passed over information to U.S. authorities about possible falsification of Party of Regions’ secret accounting records in order to conceal the receipt of money by Barack Obama’s administration employee Craig under the Manafort case.
The second possible scandal from Ukraine may concern possible involvement of one of the leaders of the Democratic Party and the likely presidential candidate in the 2020 elections, Joseph Biden, in lobbying for the interests of Burisma company in Ukraine.
According to our sources close to the Prosecutor General's Office, the American TV channel didn’t show the whole interview - Lutsenko told them much more about the case of the Biden family. The prosecutor general said that Yovanovitch mentioned a certain "list of untouchables." However, the ambassador herself categorically denies this fact, and there are no papers or witnesses out there. Was it about the ambassador’s interest in "not investigating" a number of cases? According to Censor.NET sources in the Prosecutor General’s Office, Lutsenko and Yovanovitch could discuss possible probes against the PPB deputies Serhii Lieschenko and Svitlana Zalischuk suspected of illegal enrichment and acquisition of apartments.
In an interview with The Hill, Lutsenko also talked about Burisma - a business of the infamous oligarch Mykola Zlochevskyi. The son of Joe Biden, the U.S. former Vice President, entered the company’s supervisory board in 2014. Lutsenko believes that his predecessor - Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin – gave away the Burisma case to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau under pressure, in violation of the principle of investigative jurisdiction.
And this is only the beginning - The Hill journalists made another interview in Ukraine - with Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskyi, details of which have not been published yet. This means The Hill is collecting reactions to the first part as well as comments for the continuation of this political series. The main question that interested American law enforcers and journalists was whether some of the materials, which would discredit not only Manafort, had been hidden? Did the papers contain information on certain officials who worked for the Democratic administration that could be erased?
This story is filled with conflicts of interest in Ukraine and in the United States. We will briefly explain to you at least some of the details of this multi-way action-detective story, we need to build a sequence of known facts and add the sensational information to them.
- During the U.S. November 2016 presidential election, the Obama administration mobilized political elites in support of Hillary Clinton in countries where public opinion may influence the United States diaspora. Various Ukrainian politicians made numerous statements in support of Clinton, including such statements made by Serhii Leshchenko, as well as a number of other Ukrainian politicians in contact with the U.S. Embassy.
- During the campaign, the target of Clinton's team was one of the most famous American lobbyists and political consultants Paul Manafort - whom Trump appointed as head of the election headquarters in March 2016. Manafort served the interests of various foreign dictators, including former Ukraine’s leader Viktor Yanukovych. Democrats accused Trump of having links with the enemies of U.S. national interests and pro-Russian politicians.
- The case against Manafort resonated thanks to the scandal in Ukraine. Viktor Trepak, the first deputy chief of Ukraine’s Security Service, handed over to the National Anticorruption Bureau the Party of Regions’ slush fund records, which proved some Americans, including Paul Manafort, to be among the recipients of illegal funds from Yanukovych. After the materials had been transferred to the NABU, the PPB MP Serhii Leshchenko, known to be in close contact with the U.S. Embassy and the NABU, was the first to publish an article on the matter back in May 2016. As the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia newspaper wrote in November 2016: "There was no information about Manafort in the Leshchenko’s article published by the Ukrainska Pravda news outlet, so its leak could only have come from the NABU, and it was unlikely that it was the head of the bureau’s personal initiative. It is not known who exactly advised Artem Sytnyk to "leak documents", since both President Poroshenko and the American embassy could be equally involved. General Trepak in an interview with Censor.NET sharply condemned the actions of the NABU in the Manafort case as a "geopolitical game": "After the NABU had published on its official website the fragments of Party of Regions' slush fund case, I said that with such a thing (as with any other) one cannot play politics. Unfortunately, the NABU ignored it – no matter what its leadership is saying now, it is obvious that it got involved in a geopolitical game after revealing the materials. In fact, the NABU didn’t play on its own but was simply used in the game. And it does not matter in what way and for what purpose they leaked the papers (on their own or Bankova’s initiative, or at the request of representatives of a foreign diplomatic mission).
Special anti-corruption prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskyi said in an interview: "I imposed a total ban on publishing any part of this Party of Regions slush fund case, and the NABU defied my direct ban. This was our first sharp conflict. The name of Manafort wasn’t mentioned in the records, he personally wasn't a recipient of these slush funds. This information required serious verification. When I expressed deep concern after the disclosure of this information at a meeting with the staff of the U.S. Embassy, I was surprised at their lack of any interest to this problem. I felt like they were well aware of the reasons for disclosure of the case papers. And I said this in the interview with The Hill".
- Aug. 17, 2016, the American Associated Press news agency published the news that Paul Manafort was among the recipients of Yanukovych’s money. The news had resonance, but the source of this information was anonymous. The big scandal arose on Aug 18, when the National Anti-Corruption Bureau "in response to numerous requests" officially disclosed and published the probe materials, while stating that Manafort was on the list of recipients of the money. At the same time, the NABU acknowledged there was no information that Manafort had personally received the money since the other person signed in on the receipt. The disclosure of the investigation materials was criticized by General Trepak and chief anti-corruption prosecutor Kholodnytskyi. Why did the NABU decide to disclose the probe materials and do it without the consent of the procedural leader, acting to the advantage of the ruling Democratic Party in the fight against Trump? It is logical to assume that NABU chief Artem Sytnyk was really asked to do that by American partners.
- FBI investigators arrive in Ukraine. After the scandal in Ukraine, Trump has to remove Manafort from the leadership of the election campaign. The FBI begins to check Manafort’s accounts and finds offshore funds. Manafort faces a criminal case for receiving non-taxable money in Ukraine.
- The applicant in the case of Manafort is SBU General Trepak, who resigns in protest against opposition to a probe into the case of "diamond prosecutors" by Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. MP Serhii Leshchenko also finds himself in the center of a scandal - he bought an apartment for 300 thousand dollars without specifying the source of income. But the NABU refuses to enter the case in the Unified Register. The case is then transferred to the PGO. "It was a full-fledged investigation, I was interrogated at the Arsenal plant, a lot of people were interrogated, including bank operators, who made money transfers regarding the apartment purchase", - Leshchenko told Censor.NET
- March 2014, Mykola Zlochevskyi, the infamous oligarch close to Yanukovych, comes under international sanctions as involved in the crimes of the regime. His $23.5 million received in a criminal way from another Ukraine’s oligarch Serhii Kurchenko get frozen in London accounts.
Zlochevskyi has corruptly registered some of Ukraine's mineral deposits with his firms and wants to protect the rights to the stolen empire. In order for Zlochevskyi’s assets to be seized British law enforcers expect help from Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.
- In May 2014, Zlochevskyi introduces Hunter Biden, the only son of the then U.S. Vice President and one of the Democratic Party leaders Joe Biden, to the board of directors of his company, Burisma. Hunter has a scandalous reputation of trading his name and father’s ties, has been accused of corruption, and was expelled from the U.S. Navy over a cocaine use. Vice President Biden under Obama becomes the key figure of the United States in Ukraine and arrives at the inauguration of President Poroshenko in June 2014.
- January 2015, the Prosecutor General’s Office opens a criminal case, and the assets of Burisma get frozen. In December 2015, Vice President Biden arrives in Ukraine and among other things demands that President Poroshenko fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Shokin forwards the Burisma case to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. According to Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko, the case was transferred in violation of the procedure. The question of whether there is a conflict of interest between the actions of Biden in Ukraine and the actions of his son in the supervisory board of Burisma remains open.
- The Prosecutor General's Office transfers the case of Zlochevskyi and Burisma to the newly created National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office. But in August 2017, the SAP closes the case against Zlochevskyi. A number of public activists accuse Kholodnytskyi of conspiring to close the case. Kholodnytskyi, in turn, says the NABU did not conduct an investigation and did not provide evidence of Zlochevskyi’s criminal actions. The NABU itself did not come up with any position on the closed case, and in fact, declined to discuss the reasons for the failure of the investigation. Obviously, there could be no coincidence in this case. Both anti-corruption bodies showed suspicious passivity, but an objective assessment of this fact did not follow. Kholodnytskyi’s actions were assessed by the PGO Qualification Commission, which found no violations. The actions of the NABU did not receive any assessment at all since NABU auditors had not been appointed by that time. In January 2018, Burisma announced that there were no longer any cases against the company in Ukraine. But later in 2018, the case against Zlochevskyi and Burisma is opened again after a public scandal. General Trepak commented on it as follows: "When in June 2017 SAP announced the transfer of the Party of Regions slush fund case from the NABU to the PGO, I said that such a transfer was illegal and would result in the closing of this case. The Ukrainian leadership was interested in the transfer of the case to the PGO since after that the case fell under its full political control."
- October 2017, the Poroshenko Bloc MP Boryslav Rosenblat, who is accused of corruption by the NABU, files a lawsuit against NABU director Sytnyk and MP Leshchenko charging them with interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections and illegally disclosing the information on Manafort. Rosenblat files a lawsuit a week before the U.S. brings charges against Manafort. It is unlikely that such a coincidence happened by chance.
- October 2017, journalists of Ukraine’s Nashi Hroshi TV project discover corruption schemes within Ukroboronprom state defense concern and OptimumSpetsdetal private firm. However, their probe goes almost unnoticed and provokes no reaction of law enforcement agencies.
- March 2018, a scandal broke out - the NABU wiretaps Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskyi. Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko says Kholodnytskyi must be dismissed over the violation of prosecutor's ethics, which should be considered by a prosecutor's commission. However, the prosecutor’s commission, being subordinate to Lutsenko, refused to dismiss Kholodnytskyi after it concluded that there had been no crime in the words of Kholodnytskyi. The U.S. Embassy makes a statement insisting on the resignation of Kholodnytskyi. Kholodnytskyi, in turn, makes a statement on the resumption of the investigation on the purchase of an apartment by Serhii Leschenko.
- December 2018, the Kyiv District Administrative Court, following the Rosenblat suit, rules that NABU’s Sytnyk and people's deputy Leshchenko illegally spread information about Manafort’s involvement in criminal activities in Ukraine. This coincides with the final stage of the process against Manafort in the United States and gives additional arguments to the defense.
- In February-March 2019, as the Ukraine presidential election is gaining momentum, Nashi Hroshi shows another probe into corruption within Ukroboronprom. However, this time someone leaks additional evidence to journalists - records of conversations that show involvement in corruption of Ukraine’s top leadership and NABU staff who, judging by the records, concealed the investigation data from the procedural leaders - SAP prosecutors and thereby helped to "bury" the case. NABU’s prestige gets seriously undermined.
- The Hill makes interviews with Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko and SAP head Nazar Kholodnytskyi on the Manafort case and the disclosure of information from the NABU.
- March 7, the District Court of Virginia sentences Paul Manafort to 3,9 years in prison for fraud. This is a serious blow to Trump’s image.
- March 7, 2019, an unprecedented event takes place – U.S. Deputy Secretary of State David Hale demands that Special Anticorruption Prosecutor Kholodnytskyi should resign. However, Prosecutor General Lutsenko and President Poroshenko did not react to this statement by the State Department. It was Kholodnytskyi who should have granted the NABU permission to disclose data on Manafort, and keeping Kholodnytskyi in the office allows the PGO to build an effective accusation against the NABU and those who forced the bureau to disclose information on Manafort. It is likely that such a high level of statements against Kholodnytskyi may come after learning the SAP chief provided information proving the publication of Party of Regions slush fund case papers was a gross procedural violation. This means that the State Department predicted a scandal and tried to forestall its negative effect.
- March 9, Prosecutor General Lutsenko in an interview with Censor.NET slammed the NABU, demanding prompt investigation and prosecution of NABU’s employees guilty of concealing corruption crimes in Ukroboronprom.
- March 14, another sensation popped up. Boryslav Rosenblat published a recording of the conversation, where the voice of NABU’s Sytnyk says: "I helped Hillary... We published the Manafort data"."I have irrefutable evidence that the director of the anti-corruption bureau worked for one of the presidential candidates in the United States, disclosing investigation materials and transferring them to another foreign state in order to influence the electoral process in support of one of the presidential candidates... This is treason," Rosenblat said. Sytnyk, in turn, has not refuted the authenticity of this audio recording, which raises a strong suspicion that the record is real.
- March 16, U.S. President Donald Trump retweeted a message from one of the lesser-known American politicians Chuck Calleto, where he wrote about Rosenblat’s records and the words of the NABU director, referring to Ukrainian media.
- March 20, The Hill publishes a fragment of an interview with Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko: "Unfortunately, at the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv (Yovanovitch), she gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute... At that time, we had a case on embezzlement of U.S. $4 mln technical assistance, and this dialogue took place in this respect. At the time, Yovanovitch believed that our interrogations of Ukrainian citizens, Ukrainian government officials who were frequent visitors at the U.S. embassy cast a shadow on the anticorruption policy." The State Department sharply spoke out in support of Yovanovitch and called Lutsenko’s words "frank fiction".
- March 25, Lutsenko’s charges for the first time received a response at the highest level in the United States. Son of the U.S. President Donald Trump Jr. said: "Calls grow to remove Obama's U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine." Obviously, the statement is not accidental and is a signal of the Republicans' public support for the testimony of Lutsenko and Kholodnytskyi.
So, we’ve got an incredible combination here! The Ukrainian leadership says the U.S. ambassador has interfered in the country’s internal affairs and at the same time accuses a Ukraine’s high-ranking official of interfering in the internal affairs of the United States! We ourselves have brought extremely serious accusations against us! And all this sees full support of the current U.S. president! What goals did this complex combination pursue?
To help Trump defend Paul Manafort who was sentenced at the same time with Lutsenko’s revelations.
To help Trump fight off Special Prosecutor Muller’s accusations of the Trump administration’s links to Russian politicians by demonstrating the entire process had been ordered and the evidence had been forged - by the Obama administration.
To bring accusations against the Democrats and above all against their leader Joe Biden - a likely candidate in the 2020 presidential election – of his illegal lobbying the interests of Burisma in Ukraine.
To discredit the NABU as an institution that is overseen by U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch, and to discredit NGOs associated with the U.S. Embassy and advocating for the NABU. If the U.S. authorities recognize NABU’s interference in the presidential election, the U.S. support of the bureau will be no longer possible, and the resignation of Sytnyk will be only a matter of time.
To Replace Yovanovitch with a more loyal Republican ambassador, who will reconsider the approaches to the internal affairs of Ukraine. The current ambassador’s term expires already this June.
To build personal commitments between Trump and Poroshenko in order to achieve a more loyal Republican administration policy towards Ukraine, expanding programs of assistance and support for integration into NATO.
- Lutsenko’s accusation against U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch was agreed with the administration of President Trump.
- Poroshenko and Lutsenko help Trump repel the Democrats' attack on Manafort and strike at the democratic candidate Biden. Lutsenko’s statement was made at the same time with the announcement of Manafort’s sentence.
- I think the list of Marie Yovanovitch actually did not exist. But I fully admit that the U.S. ambassador could inquire about the case of MP Serhii Leschenko’s illegal enrichment, and Lutsnko interpreted this in his own way. There is no evidence of the biased position of the U.S. ambassador.
- NABU disclosed the Manafort probe data without any permission of the procedural director and, most likely, at the request of someone from the U.S. Embassy. But there is no evidence the request was made by Yovanovitch. I think she acted without any malintent.
- It comes that Hilary Clinton’s Democrats encouraged Ukrainian politicians to discredit Trump and Republicans. In his turn, Trump did the same with Ukrainian politicians to discredit the Democrats and Biden. Therefore, Ukraine remains one of the most important factors in U.S. politics.
In fact, the case in question will breed many more scandals, and Ukraine will be one of the key elements on the agenda of the elections and political struggle in the United States. The Ukrainian leadership has bet on Trump. Well, we are looking forward to new episodes.
Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET