Former Ukrainian diplomat to U.S. blames Chaly for decay in relations
One week before the inauguration of U. S. President Donald J. Trump in 2017, an article was released in U.S. political website Politico suggesting that “Kyiv officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.”
At the center of the story was a man named Andrii Telizhenko, a former diplomat at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington who claimed that a Democratic Party operative had met with him seeking compromising information on the Trump campaign.
Over the course of several months, the article caused a small commotion in Washington and Kyiv, with Trump tweeting about it in July 2017, and a Republican senator opening a congressional probe into the matter.
Now Telizhenko has turned on Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly, arguing that Chaly discredited himself as a diplomat by supporting the Clinton campaign and refusing to meet with Trump officials during the campaign.
“It was the ambassador himself, he misled the president on this situation,” Telizhenko told the Kyiv Post. “Let’s change the leadership of the embassy in DC. It wasn’t a secret that Chaly was going around the diaspora promoting the Democratic candidate."
The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington issued a statement to the Kyiv Post saying “we stand by our words that the government of Ukraine didn't help any candidate in Election 2016. Ukraine is proud of its bipartisan support in the US.”
But Telizhenko argues that a sense of “insult” has lingered since the 2016 election, damaging the bilateral relationship between the two countries, and leading to a June 2017 meeting between Trump and Poroshenko to be downgraded below the level of an official visit.
“Allies shouldn’t drop-in or dropout, they should come for an official meeting with a delegation,” Telizhenko said.
He claimed that Ukraine was forced to spend $600,000 on BGR consulting, a D.C. lobbying firm, to arrange the meeting.
“It’s not a problem that our administration is using a lobbying firm, everyone else in the world uses lobbying firms,” Telizhenko said. “But we had to use it to get our meeting because of the unprofessionalism of our embassy in Washington.”
Telizhenko frames the relationship as a missed opportunity, costing Ukraine lost military aid dollars and ease of Ukrainian officials in obtaining high-level meetings in Washington.
“Poroshenko and Trump are the same, mentally,” he said, adding that he "hopes" Chaly hasn't stayed in his position due to "some personal friendship with the president."
Telizhenko also dismisses talk of Russian influence in the Trump White House, pointing to the hawkish views of officials like Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
But others cast doubt on Telizhenko’s claims, suggesting that he’s a disgruntled former employee trying to develop contacts in Republican power circles for his own private political consulting business.
“There were more negative consequences for me in Kyiv than there were positive ones,” Telizhenko said of the response to his criticism, adding, “A real friend delivers the truth up front.”
Ukraine's Ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly speaks at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington D.C. in April 2018. Former embassy employee Andrii Telizhenko argues that Chaly should have stepped down from his post as ambassador following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (UNIAN)