Ukraine: Com­pany with Bi­den ties faces re­view

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By YURAS KARMANAU and NATALIYA VASILYEVA

ZHYTOMYR, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top prose­cu­tor said Fri­day his of­fice is re­view­ing sev­eral cases re­lated to the owner of a gas com­pany where the son of former Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den sat on the board, but he added that he wasn’t aware of any ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing by ei­ther Bi­den.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had asked for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Bi­den, his Demo­cratic ri­val, in a July 25 phone call with new Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy at a time when mil­lions of dol­lars in U.S. mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to the coun­try was be­ing held up. That has prompted the U.S. Congress to be­gin an im­peach­ment in­quiry against Trump.

The move by Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral Rus­lan Rya­boshapka was seen by po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts in Kyiv not as a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion to dig up dirt on the Bi­dens but rather an at­tempt to stay in the good graces of the White House at a time when Ukraine needs Western help to deal with an up­ris­ing by pro-Rus­sia sep­a­ratists.

Rya­boshapka told re­porters that his of­fice was “au­dit­ing” rel­e­vant cases that were closed, dis­missed or put on hold by his pre­de­ces­sors.

Sev­eral of the cases un­der au­dit are re­lated to Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of the gas com­pany Burisma that hired Hunter Bi­den in 2014, the same time his fa­ther was lead­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s diplo­matic deal­ings with Ukraine.

“We are now re­view­ing all the cases that were closed or split into sev­eral parts or were in­ves­ti­gated be­fore, in or­der to be able to rule to re­verse those cases where il­le­gal pro­ce­dural steps were taken,” Rya­boshapka said.

Asked if the pros­e­cu­tors had ev­i­dence of any wrong­do­ing on Hunter Bi­den’s part, he said: “I have no such in­for­ma­tion.”

The Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice said in a state­ment that among the cases be­ing re­viewed are 15 in which Zlochevsky is men­tioned. None of the Zlochevsky-re­lated cases has

been re­vived yet, the of­fice said.

They did not spec­ify how many, if any, were re­lated to Hunter Bi­den’s work at Burisma.

Trump has said that the United States has an “ab­so­lute right” to ask for­eign lead­ers to in­ves­ti­gate cor­rup­tion cases.

Asked about that by The As­so­ci­ated Press, Ze­len­skiy said dur­ing an ap­pear­ance in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr that all cases un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion are “trans­par­ent.”

“Chief pros­e­cu­tors could pull their ef­forts to­gether, we have all cases open,” Ze­len­skiy said.

Ze­len­skiy and Rya­boshapka de­nied be­ing un­der any for­eign pres­sure over cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions, although text mes­sages re­leased Thurs­day in the U.S. showed Amer­i­can diplo­mats push­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Bi­den’s son. House investigat­ors re­leased a cache of text mes­sages pro­vided by Kurt Volker, the former spe­cial U.S. en­voy to Ukraine who has stepped down.

In the mes­sages, Volker en­cour­aged an aide to Ze­len­skiy to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion linked to Bi­den’s fam­ily in ex­change for get­ting the pres­i­dent a high-pro­file meet­ing to Wash­ing­ton with Trump.

Rya­boshapka in­sisted Fri­day he did not feel any pres­sure over the Burisma case.

“Not a sin­gle for­eign or Ukrainian of­fi­cial or politi­cian has called me or tried to in­flu­ence my de­ci­sions re­gard­ing spe­cific crim­i­nal cases,” he said when asked if Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani or any other peo­ple had urged him to in­ves­ti­gate Hunter Bi­den.

An­a­lysts in Kyiv saw the re­marks by Rya­boshapka and Ze­len­skiy as an at­tempt by the Ukrainian govern­ment to main­tain good re­la­tions with Trump and avoid tak­ing sides in a U.S. po­lit­i­cal dispute.

“Rya­boshapka’s state­ments mean that the (crim­i­nal) cases are al­legedly be­ing in­ves­ti­gated and Kyiv is open for co­op­er­a­tion with U.S. coun­ter­parts, but we shouldn’t ex­pect any tan­gi­ble re­sults of the probe un­til af­ter the elec­tion in the U.S.,” said Volodymyr Fe­senko of the Penta Cen­ter think tank in Kyiv.

“Ze­len­skiy doesn’t want to be in­volved in the U.S. po­lit­i­cal bat­tles, but he’s al­ready in the game and has to be flex­i­ble.”

Ukrainian Pres­i­den­tial Press Of­fice via AP

In this hand­out photo pro­vided by the Ukrainian Pres­i­den­tial Press Of­fice, Rus­lan Rya­boshapka speaks Fri­day to the me­dia in Kyiv, Ukraine.

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