Investigations into Donald Trump currently carried out by the U.S. Congress House Committees in the hope of finding grounds for his impeachment pose great interest not only to American politicians. Since Trump’s opponents accuse him of abuse of authority in the context of Ukrainian-American relations (e.g. in attempting to push Volodymyr Zelenskyi to investigate Hunter Biden, Burisma company board member, or groundless firing of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine), this investigation has become a true encyclopedia of Ukrainian realia and sheds light on secret political processes in the very center of Europe. However, records of public hearings involving congressmen interrogating high level witnesses provide ample food for thought for American readers as well. At least because these witnesses are passionately lying, making up stories with the intention to conceal the truth about their true activities in Ukraine, and hoping to avoid responsibility for embezzling American taxpayers’ money.
Special attention is deserved by testimonies of Kurt Volker, the former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv. These testimonies are interesting in that the diplomats, having sworn to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing bt the truth,” are actively trying to deceive the congressmen, and sometimes are passionately lying. This is despite the fact that no longer than on November 15, 2019 the former Trump’s political adviser Roger Stone was found guilty in lying to Congress during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and is now facing 50 years of prison. Therefore, Yovanovitch, Kent, and Volker have substantial reasons to withhold the truth from the congressmen, if the Stone’s case didn’t persuade them otherwise.
Of these three, Volker lied the least. He just forgot to mention that his main place of employment is the BGR Group lobbying firm, which was improving image of Petro Poroshenko using money from the fifth Ukrainian president’s ally Yuriy Kosiuk, the former First Deputy Chief of Staff of President Poroshenko and his adviser. Also, Kurt Volker didn’t share the details of Marie Yovanovitch’s recall from the post of the U.S. Ambassador in Kyiv. This was the idea of the Ukrainians, who got fed up by Yovanovitch’s involvement in corrupt dealings. Moreover, Ukrainian President Poroshenko asked the U.S. President Trump to replace Yovanovitch with Volker, with whom he had developed friendly relationship.
Volker could not have been unaware that Poroshenko seeks replacing Yovanovitch with Volker. Therefore, it is not surprising that on September 14, 2019 at the meeting with Andriy Yermak and Igor Novykov—advisers of the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi—Volker asked not to press corruption charges against Poroshenko.
On the other hand, testimony of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who had been blatantly recalled in May of 2019—three months before the end of her tenure—and who testified to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs on October 11 and November 15, is pure science fiction. That said, it is worth noting that Yovanovitch is not the worst Ambassador to ever represent the U.S. in Ukraine. She is a very experienced diplomat and perhaps a true patriot of her homeland. But she has become hostage of the situation created by her predecessor Jeffrey Pyett and her assistant George Kent.
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We will start commenting on Yovanovitch’s testimony with the so called “Yovanovitch’s list.” In his interview to the American website The Hill in May 2019, the then Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko (funny as it may be, but on September 30, 2016 the post of the “Prosecutor General of Ukraine” was abolished, and now one needs to say “Prosecutor General” of some unknown country) said that during official conversations, the U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch told him names of people whom Ukrainian authorities should not persecute.
John Solomon, the reporter, talked to Yuriy Lutsenko via Skype. Solomon asked his questions in English, and Lutsenko answered in Ukrainian. Translation was done by Yevhenii Pikalov, the then Head of the Main Department for International Legal Cooperation of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, who made a mistake by using a verb “give” instead of “notify” or “declare,” which made an impression that Yovanovitch allegedly handed Lutsenko over some document with a list of names:
“Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko, who took his post in 2016, told Hill.TV last week.
As a matter of fact, though, Lutsenko said that Yovanovitch didn’t hand over but rather announced to him a list of “untouchables.” This can be verified by any Ukrainian speaking person.
In her testimony to Congress, Yovanovitch flatly ascertained that she had never handed any list of “untouchables” over to Lutsenko, which is in fact true. But when the senators asked Yovanovitch to clarify whether she even mentioned names of people not to be persecuted in her conversation with Lutsenko, she replied negatively, meaning she had never had any such conversations. And that’s a deliberate lie. At that, both Yovanovitch and Kent appealed to Lutsenko’s bad reputation and assured that this man was not trustworthy.
Sure thing, Yuriy Lutsenko is one of the most embarrassing characters in Ukrainian politics. The former prosecutor general without a law degree and a habitual corrupt official, whose passion for alcohol has become a subject of anecdotes, is not the most trustworthy source of information. But in this case, he is telling the truth.
The meeting between Yovanovitch and Lutsenko took place in January 2017. It was an official visit of the U.S. Ambassador to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. Besides Lutsenko, the Ukrainian side was represented by the Deputy Prosecutor General Yevgeniy Yenin and the translator. During the conversation, Yovanovitch expressed to Lutsenko her dissatisfaction with the criminal proceedings regarding the former Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko. She also claimed it was inadmissible to persecute, besides Kasko, Vitaliy Shabunin, director of a lobbyist firm, and Sergiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian MP.
Marie Yovanovitch’s concerns about Kasko’s fate (by the way, on September 5, 2019 new Prosecutor General, less the word “Ukraine”, Ruslan Riaboshapka appointed him as his First Deputy) were caused by the following.
On February 12, 2016 the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine started pre-trial investigation in the criminal proceeding #42016000000000470 into fraud and forgery committed by Kasko in order to illegally appropriate the state apartment. According to the Ukrainian law, if the attorney doesn’t own housing, he gets assigned a service apartment, which remains in the state or communal property. Moreover, the size of this apartment depends on the number of family members (13.65 square meters per person).
Lviv resident Kasko moved to Kyiv and was hired by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine in April 2002. In May 2003, he got a studio at 3 Novgorodska St., Apt. #64, with a total size of 48 square meters. And even though Kasko had no family, he got a place for two by forging the documents, in which he claimed that he had been living with his mother (even though the mother had been living in Lviv in her own apartment). Then, by forging documents, Kasko managed to privatize the service Kyiv apartment in his mother’s name, after which, in October 2005, he resigned from the prosecutor’s office and started practicing law.
In April 2007, Kasko returned to the prosecutor’s office and in May 2010, applied for yet another free apartment. However, this time, he forged the documents and claimed that three members of his family (mother, sister, and grandfather) had been living with him. In August, Kasko received a two-bedroom service apartment, in the capital city center of all places, at 14-16 Druzhby Narodiv Ave., Section 2, Apt. 95.
In December 2010, Kasko resigned from the prosecutor’s office but did not return the service apartment. Instead, on February 24, 2014, when the blood was being cleaned up off Maidan, he filed forged documents to the Pecherskyi District State Administration, on whose grounds he privatized the state apartment for the second time without paying a penny. And in May 2014, Vitaliy Kasko returned to the prosecutor’s office as the Deputy Prosecutor General. He was appointed under the quota of Kolomoiskyi thanks to his friend Andriy Bohdan, the then lawyer of the omnipotent oligarch.
Two days later after starting the criminal proceeding, Kasko resigned from the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. On April 8, 2016 he received a notice of suspicion, but at the time of the meeting between Yovanovitch and Lutsenko, the investigation still had been ongoing (the investigation was conducted by the Pecherskyi District of Kyiv Police Department, where Lutsenko transferred Kasko’s case to as soon as he had been appointed the Prosecutor General in May 2016) as new fraud episodes were uncovered. For instance, it turned out that in 2005, Kasko got his certificate of right to practice law based on forged documents. Here is the statement, written in the name of Kasko, addressed to the Head of the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of the Bar of Zakarpattia Region. In the statement, Kasko asks to allow him to take the qualifying exam. The statement is written by another person, and Kasko’s signature is forged.
This is precisely the criminal proceeding that Yovanovitch desired to end. This is confirmed not only by the people attending her meeting with Lutsenko, but also by the follow-up events. After this meeting, Lutsenko, who was at that time showing his loyalty to the U.S. Embassy in every way possible, immediately summoned his subordinates and ordered to end the probe against Kasko in order not to spoil the relationship with Yovanovitch. No longer than the following day, on January 16, 2017, the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office shared an official statement that the “Sixth Kyiv Local Prosecutor’s Office ended criminal proceedings against former Deputy Prosecutor General Kasko regarding fraud and usage of a forged document during privatization of housing in Kyiv.”
The second criminal case Marie Yovanovitch inquired Yuriy Lutsenko about was closed on May 30, 2016 during the tenure of the former ambassador Jeffrey Pyett, but Yovanovitch wanted to hear with her own ears that the case would not be renewed. She was referring to the criminal proceeding 42016000000000688, in which the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine investigated embezzlement of the financial aid provided by the U.S. Government to the Ukrainian government for reforming the prosecutor’s office, and, in particular, for creating tests used in exams taken by candidates for attorney positions.
Funds amounting to $2.5 mln were supposed to be received by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine and other state agencies, but in August 2015, the money disappeared. As it turned out, this happened with the direct involvement of George Kent, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv, David Sakvarelidze, the then Deputy Prosecutor General, and Vitaliy Shabunin, a private entrepreneur running a private lobbyist firm pretentiously named “Anti-Corruption Action Centre.”
During the investigation, it was established that this lobbyist firm had 20 bank accounts even though it was registered as a non-profit organization and didn’t pay taxes. Moreover, the amount of money stolen was much higher—at least $4.4 mln. Investigation started on March 16, 2016, but as soon as detectives got a search warrant from court that provided access to financial documents of the “Anti-Corruption Action Centre” firm, George Kent wrote a letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine asking to close the case.
In response, Deputy Prosecutor General Yuriy Stoliarchuk made a public statement that Kent could be interrogated as a witness in this criminal proceeding (which is possible, but exclusively upon the diplomat’s voluntary decision). But on May 12, 2016, Yuriy Lutsenko was appointed the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, and already on May 30, 2016, the case was closed, since Lutsenko announced to his new subordinates that he was not willing to fight with the U.S. Embassy. However, now Lutsenko is telling stories about his integrity and how the U.S. Ambassador forced him to break the law.
Also, at the meeting with Lutsenko, Marie Yovanovitch brought up a Ukrainian MP Sergiy Leshchenko, who on August 31, 2016 bought a luxury apartment iin the Kyiv center worth $300 000. For a former reporter who never ran any business, this is an extraordinary amount of money, and Leshchenko clearly couldn’t obtain it legally. Leshchenko himself explained that the money was lent to him by the “Ukrainska Pravda” website owner Olena Prytula and his lover Anastasiia Topolska. However, neither Prytula nor Topolska came even remotely close to earning that much, especially given that Topolska had been at that time married to another man, without whose consent couldn’t have disposed of family savings.
Instead, there have been rumors among Ukrainian politicians that the Leshchenko’s apartment has been bought courtesy of Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk, who wanted to reward the member of Ukrainian parliament this way for spinning the “Manafort’s case” in the U.S. in order to compromise Donald Trump, the presidential candidate.
In March 2016, amid the U.S. presidential elections, Paul Manafort became the head of Donald Trump’s campaign. Previously Manafort consulted Ukrainian President Yanukovych as a lobbyist and policy strategist. Only an idiot or a suicidal could appoint such a unique character to run the campaign. Therefore, it is not surprising that opponents immediately figured how to hit Trump by releasing dirt on his campaign manager.
Direct architects of the “Manafort’s case” were George Kent, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv, and Karen Greenaway, the Supervisory Special Agent of FBI in Ukraine. With the intent of compromising Trump, they arranged publication of excerpts from a so called “Party of Regions black book,” a set of records about unofficial money payments to politicians and reporters found in the Kyiv office of the Party of Regions after the building had been set to fire in February 2014 by the then would-be member of Ukrainian parliament Tetiana Chornovol. After the fire, all the documents found in the office of the Party of Regions were being kept in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine; then they were transferred to the Security Service of Ukraine where they were studied by FBI officers. Actually, it is then, when it was found out that some pages have entries about payments of big amounts of money to Manafort (that said, it was not Manafort who signed for receipt of money but rather Yevgeniy Geller, a Ukrainian MP).
In May 2016, following Karen Greenaway’s orders, the First Deputy Head of Security Service of Ukraine Viktor Trepak, who at that time had already been fired once from SSU because of outside affiliations with the U.S. Embassy (as it turned out, Trepak carried out Ambassador Pyett’s and Deputy Chief of Mission Kent’s very peculiar orders in order to force the Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to close the criminal proceeding against Burisma company, where the son of the U.S. Vice President was employed), shared information about how he allegedly stumbled upon the “Party of Regions black book” near his own house and handed it over to the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine. At the same time, Kent handed over copies of a couple of pages from the “black book” to Leshchenko for publishing with the intent of creating some fuss around Manafort. But since Leshchenko didn’t bother to read what he was publishing in “Ukrainska Pravda,” because of Kent’s and Greenaway’s negligence, he also shared the entry with the illegal money payment from the Party of Regions to “Ukrainska Pravda,” where Leshchenko himself had been working at the time.
Shortly, Artem Sytnyk, Director of the NABU, released entries from the “black book” on the NABU website. Also, following Greenaway’s orders, he handed the copies over to the “The New York Times” reporters. Lest any surprises such as in the Leshchenko’s case take place again, Greenaway instructed and warned Sytnyk and other people affiliated with the “Manafort’s case” to carefully read what they publish and to prevent leaking of mentions of Gregory Craig at any cost. Craig, like Manafort, received money from oligarchs in Yanukovich’s orbit, and also provided lobbying services. However, he was Democratic Party’s lawyer and Barack Obama’s personal attorney. Therefore, as the Caesar’s wife, he had to be above any suspicion.
On August 18, 2016, “The New York Times” published excerpts from the “black book” provided by Sytnyk, which featured Manafort’s name, along with Vitaliy Kasko’s commentary. The following day, amid the scandal that burst out, Manafort left Trump’s campaign, and Leshchenko announced that this was due to him that the final nail in Trumps’ coffin had been put, and after such a blow, Trump would have never recovered.
And a couple of days after that, a Ukrainian MP Sergiy Leshchenko bought a luxury apartment worth 3,600 times his monthly salary. Nevertheless, every single attempt of the public and reporters to force the NABU to launch a probe into Leshchenko’s sources of income went in vain. Director of the NABU Sytnyk even forbade to register the report about Leshchenko’s crime. At the time, Marie Yovanovitch had already become the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (“Masha,” as she’s being called among the diplomats, on August 23, 2016 handed the copy of the ambassador’s credentials over to the Deputy Minister of International Affairs). She knows perfectly well how much effort the embassy put into saving Leshchenko from criminal responsibility.
In January 2017, when Yovanovitch met with Lutsenko, she was worried that the National Agency on Corruption Prevention had issued an administrative citation against Leshchenko (who was Kent’s close friend) regarding anticorruption law violation by the MP when buying the ill-fated apartment. The citation went to court, and the U.S. Ambassador, obviously, was worried that the court might, God forbid, find Leshchenko guilty of corruption. However, this Yovanovitch’s request has also been heard. On February 15, 2017 the Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv ended the proceeding against Sergiy Leshchenko.
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There is nothing illegal in the fact that Marie Yovanovitch asked Yuriy Lutsenko to end the criminal proceeding against Vitaliy Kasko and not to persecute Vitaliy Shabunin and Sergiy Leshchenko. After all, the U.S. Ambassador is not accountable for the fact the Prosecutor General in Ukraine was a corrupt alcoholic without law degree who complied with any whim of foreign visitors. From the point of view of the U.S. law, she committed a crime by lying to Congress.
By the same logic, there was nothing illegal about George Kent and Karen Greenaway exposing Paul Manafort who, indeed, took money from Ukrainian oligarchs and, indeed, did not pay taxes in his home country. However, he was persecuted not for this but rather in order to compromise Donald Trump and bolster Hillary Clinton’s campaign. If Manafort declined to manage Trump’s campaign, he would have still been treated as a respectable political consultant, Director of the NABU Artem Sytnyk would not have published excerpts from the “black book,” and Sergiy Leshchenko would not have spun the “Manafort’s case.” What is illegal is the goal of exposing Manafort: when the U.S. government officials abused their official position in order to compromise one presidential candidate in favor of another. Moreover, they carried this out with their Ukrainian agents’ hands and using American taxpayers’ money. I guess this is what is called “unamerican activities.”
20th November, 2019 / By Volodymyr Boiko