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Ukrainian police opened criminal investigations into the alleged illegal surveillance of a former U.S. ambassador by people linked to President Donald Trump and a cyber-attack against a company mentioned in his impeachment proceedings.
The probe into the possible monitoring of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch follows the release of records from U.S. House committees that suggest that Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was keeping tabs on the diplomat’s whereabouts when she was stationed in Ukraine.
“Our goal is to investigate whether there actually was a violation of Ukrainian and international law,” Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on its website Thursday. “Or whether it is just bravado and fake information in an informal conversation between two U.S. citizens.”
Parnas worked with Giuliani to dig up political dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine and said in an interview on Wednesday the effort was to ensure Trump would win another four-year term.
Ukrainian authorities also opened an investigation into a Russian hacking attack against Burisma Holdings, a company that employed the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, has alleged that the elder Biden, when he was vice president, derailed an investigation into Burisma to protect his son Hunter.
Ukraine recommended the U.S. take part in both investigations. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov requested “all the information and materials from the FBI about persons who may be involved in a possible criminal offense” in the surveillance case.
Avakov faces a conflict of interest in pursuing an investigation into the surveillance of Yovanovitch. Documents disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee showed he was in frequent communication with Parnas from April onward, including a message inviting Parnas to his ministry. Parnas sought out Avakov’s help as he and Giuliani were pushing for Ukraine to announce an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma.
Just before he began texting with Avakov, Parnas was exchanging texts with Robert F. Hyde, a candidate for U.S. Congress this year, about Yovanovitch’s movements in Ukraine.
“She’s under heavy protection outside Kiev,” Hyde texted Parnas. “They are moving her tomorrow.”
Parnas said in an interview on MSNBC that he didn’t believe Hyde actually had anyone monitoring Yovanovitch’s movements.
Artem Shevchenko, a spokesman for Avakov, declined to comment on the texts.
Yovanovitch was removed as ambassador to Ukraine last May. She testified in impeachment hearings that she was a casualty of an effort orchestrated by Giuliani and his associates.
Ukrainian authorities also called for the establishment of an international investigation group including representatives of the FBI to look into the hacking attack against Burisma.
(Updates with details on Avakov in seventh paragraph.)
To contact the reporters on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kyiv at firstname.lastname@example.org;Stephanie Baker in London at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at firstname.lastname@example.org, Michael Winfrey, Tony Halpin
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