2002: Burisma was founded, equally owned by Mykola Zlochevsky and Mykola Lisin. It became a major shareholder of Sunrise Energy Resources, a Delaware Corporation which in 2004 acquired Ukrainian companies Esko-Pivnich and Pari, owning gas exploration licences.
NOTE: Mykola Vladislavovich Zlochevsky; born on 14 June 1966 in Kiev, is a Ukrainian oligarch businessman and politician who was Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources from July 2010 till April 2012 and was the deputy secretary for Economic and Social Security on the National Security and Defense Council from April 2012 until February 2014.
2011: Mykola Lisin, an Ukrainian politician died in a single car traffic accident
2011: Burisma was acquired by Brociti Investments Ltd. The International Fund OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) learned who “derypons” the largest gas field in Ukraine. Brociti is owned by Deripon Commercial Ltd. / (and then maybe) owned by a company based in the British Virgin Islands – Burrad Financial Corp.
“Burisma changed owners last year [in 2011]: instead of Zlochevsky and Lisin, the company was taken over by a Cypriot off-shore enterprise called Brociti Investments Ltd. Pari and Esko-Pivnich” and a “third company was already waiting for them in the same building – the above-mentioned Ukrnaftoburinnya,” and “The Privat Group is the immediate owner. This company was founded by Mykola Zlochevsky some time ago, but he later sold his shares to the Privat Group,” which “is a conglomerate controlled by the ferocious Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky,” who “is one of the oligarchs charged with holding down the Eastern provinces of Ukraine,” and who “is far too ebulliently Jewish to look like a neo-Nazi. A US connection with Kolomoisky might play well in circles keen to counter Russian complaints that the interim Kiev regime is dominated by ‘fascists’.” Those quotations are from Mr. Smith’s article, but the following is not. Examining the documents myself, I note especially that at their end is the conclusion: “Thus, Ihor Kolomoisky managed to seize the largest reserves of natural gas in Ukraine.” This was the conclusion of the “careful Ukrainian journalist,” which was actually not one but a team of three, who were employed at a Ukrainian non-profit, the Anticorruption Action Centre, which specialized in tracking down the actual persons who controlled corporations and which had a particular focus on finding “Offshore fronts for Yanukovych.” Yanukovych was the democratically elected Ukrainian President, who took office on 25 February 2010. So: this non-profit was an anti-Yanukovych organization, writing more than two years into his Presidency, on 28 August 2012.
NOTE: Ihor Valeriyovych Kolomoyskyi; born 13 February 1963, is a Ukrainian billionaire business oligarch and the former Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Kolomoyskyi is rated as the second or third richest person in Ukraine since 2006. Kolomoyskyi is the leading partner of the Privat Group and a de facto chairman of the FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Kolomoyskyi is the president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine. In 2010, Kolomoyskyi was appointed as the president of the European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC). He and fellow Ukrainian oligarch Vadim Rabinovich, founded the European Jewish Union.
November 21, 2013: Euromaidan was a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine with public protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev. The protests were sparked by the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend the signing of an association agreement with the European Union, instead choosing closer ties to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. The scope of the protests soon widened, with calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and his government.
The protests were fueled by the perception of “widespread government corruption”, “abuse of power”, and “violation of human rights in Ukraine”. Transparency International named President Yanukovych as the top example of corruption in the world.
NOTE: Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych; born 9 July 1950, was elected as the fourth President of Ukraine on 7 February 2010, and served until February 2014. He is currently in exile in Russia and wanted by Ukraine for high treason. Viktor Yanukovych was born in the village of Zhukovka near Yenakiieve in Donetsk Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union. Yanukovych is of Russian, Polish, and Belarusian descent.
February 2014: The Ukrainian revolution took place when a series of violent events involving protesters, riot police, and unknown shooters in the capital, Kiev, culminated in the ousting of the elected Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, and the overthrow of the Ukrainian Government.
Clashes between the protestors and the riot police became violent, and resulted in deaths of nearly 130 people, including 18 police officers. As the tensions rose, the personal safety for the president became untenable. The Ukrainian protesters’ main concern is the government’s decision to abandon a planned “association agreement” with the European Union and to instead accept assistance from Russia. The protests grew to encompass broader concerns, especially about rampant corruption in Ukraine.
February 22, 2014: Yanukovych fled from Kiev to Russia. On the same day, the parliament declared that Yanukovich was relieved of duty in a 328-to-0 vote. Yanukovich said that this vote was illegal and possibly coerced, and asked Russian Federation for assistance. Russia viewed the overthrow of Yanukovych as an illegal coup, and did not recognize the interim government that replaced him. Widespread protests against the revolution occurred in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, where Yanukovich received particularly strong support in the 2010 presidential election.
NOTE: The interim government, led by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, proceeded to sign the EU association agreement. Petro Poroshenko became the president of Ukraine after a landslide victory in the unscheduled 2014 presidential elections. The new government restored the 2004 amendments to the Ukrainian constitution that were controversially repealed as unconstitutional in 2010, and initiated a large-scale purge of civil servants who were associated with the overthrown regime.
Arseniy Petrovych Yatsenyuk; born 22 May 1974, is an economist and lawyer who served Prime Minister of Ukraine twice (from 27 February 2014 to 27 November 2014; from 27 November 2014 to 14 April 2016).
Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenk; born 26 September 1965, is a Ukrainian businessman and politician who served as the fifth President of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019. He served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2009 to 2010, and as the Minister of Trade and Economic Development in 2012. From 2007 until 2012, Poroshenko headed the Council of Ukraine’s National Bank, central bank of Ukraine
February 22-23, 2014: Russian president Vladimir Putin convened an all-night meeting with security service chiefs to discuss the extrication of the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. At the end of the meeting Putin remarked that “we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia”.
February 27, 2014: Masked Russian troops without insignia took over the Supreme Council (parliament) of Crimea, and captured strategic sites across Crimea, which led to the installation of the pro-Russian Aksyonov government in Crimea, the conducting of the Crimean status referendum and the declaration of Crimea.
March 2014: The War in Donbass is an armed conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine. From the beginning, protests by pro-Russian and anti-government groups took place in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, commonly collectively called the “Donbass”, in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the Euromaidan movement.
March 2, 2014: Amidst the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov appointed Ihor Kolomoisky Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
March 11, 2014: The Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Crimea was a joint resolution adopted by the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council where they expressed their intention to join Russia
March 17, 2014: The Crimean parliament officially declared its independence from Ukraine and requested to join the Russian Federation.
March 18, 2014: The self-proclaimed independent Republic of Crimea signed a treaty of accession to the Russian Federation.
March 27, 2014: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262 was adopted by the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea and entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
NOTE: The non-binding resolution, which was supported by 100 United Nations member states, affirmed the General Assembly’s commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and underscored the invalidity of the 2014 Crimean referendum. Eleven nations voted against the resolution, while 58 abstained, and a further 24 states were absent when the vote took place.
April 7, 2014: Russian-backed militants occupying the Donetsk Oblast administrative building declared independence from Ukraine and staged an unrecognized referendum on separating from Ukraine on 11 May 2014.
April 8, 2014: Pro-Russian separatists occupying the Luhansk Oblast administrative building planned to declare the independence of the region as the Luhansk Parliamentary Republic, after other pro-Russian separatists declared Donetsk People’s Republic in the Donetsk Oblast (April 7, 2014). When the Luhansk Parliamentary Republic ceased to exist, the separatists declared the Luhansk People’s Republic (April 27, 2014) and held a disputed referendum on separating from Ukraine on May 11, 2014.
April 16, 2014: The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) froze London bank accounts containing $23 million of Burisma’s majority shareholder, Mykola Zlochevskiy. SFO, an independent government agency, was conducting a money-laundering investigation and refused to allow Zlochevsky or Burisma Holdings, the company’s chief legal officer, and another company owned by Zlochevsky access to the accounts.
NOTE: The British money-laundering investigation was stymied by Ukrainian prosecutors’ refusal to cooperate. The Ukrainian prosecutors would not turn over documents needed in the British investigation, and without that documentary evidence, a British court ordered Britain’s Serious Fraud Office to unfreeze the assets.
April 18, 2014: Hunter Biden, the son of then-US vice president Joe Biden, was appointed to the board of Burisma Holdings. At the same time, one of the board members was Devon Archer, a former senior adviser to John Kerry 2004 presidential campaign.
NOTE: The appointment draws criticism for the potential perception of a conflict of interest with Vice President Biden’s role as the White House’s point man on Ukraine.
May 12, 2014: Burisma Holdings issues a press release saying Hunter Biden has joined its board, and that he will be “in charge of the Holdings’ legal unit and will provide support for the company among international organizations.”
The release cites his then-current positions as counsel to New York-based law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP and co-founder and a managing partner of investment advisory firm Rosemont Seneca Partners, where he also served as board chairman.
May 25, 2014: Chocolate and confectionary magnate/oligarch Petro Poroshenko wins the presidency in Ukraine in an election to succeed Yanukovych on a platform of turning Ukraine back to the West. Poroshenko previously had served as foreign minister and minister of trade and economic development.
June 7, 2014: Poroshenko takes office as president of Ukraine.
June 19, 2014: The Ukrainian Parliament approves Poroshenko’s appointment of former law enforcement officer and member of Parliament Vitaly Yarema as prosecutor general.
July 2, 2014: A Russian District Court authorized the arrest of Ihor Kolomoyskyi in absentia for “organizing the killing of civilians”. Russia is asking for Kolomoyskyi to be put on Interpol’s wanted list.
August 5, 2014: Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yarema opens an investigation of Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy on suspicion of “unlawful enrichment.”
NOTE: The investigation is referenced in the January 2015 U.K. court judgment, which concludes that the Ukrainian probe might have been started as a result of a misinterpretation of the British account freeze.
Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, says in a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website that a court in Kyiv ordered the case closed in September 2016 because no evidence of wrongdoing had been presented. While suspicions remain over how Zlochevskiy obtained his wealth and what happened to taxpayer money while he held public office, the British judge in the January 2015 U.K. judgment observed, “Allegations of corruption against political opponents appear to have been a feature of Ukrainian political life at this time.”
October 14, 2014: Ukraine’s Parliament passes a law establishing the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), a priority of anti-corruption campaigners who’d helped lead the revolution and of the U.S. government and other international backers of Ukraine. The bureau, which is to include a special prosecutor for certain corruption cases, was created in part because of the recognized ineffectiveness and corruption of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the country’s judiciary.
NOTE: The country’s anti-corruption plans also include a special High Anti-Corruption Court, which Poroshenko and Parliament slow-rolled until domestic and foreign advocates again exerted pressure over the past year. In fact, the U.S. and Europe required the Ukrainian government to fund NABU in exchange for financial aid. NABU’s early years are an uphill battle in the face of documented efforts by Parliament and the Prosecutor General’s Office to undermine its work.
December 2014: U.S. officials warned Ukrainian prosecutors of negative consequences for Ukraine over its failure to assist the U.K. investigation, which had seized Zlochevsky’s assets of $23.5 million.
December 3-5, 2014: A British court conducts a full hearing on Burisma and Zlochevsky.
January 21, 2015: A British court judgment – on Burisma and Zlochevsky – finds that none of the evidence “establishes reasonable grounds for a belief that his assets were unlawfully acquired as a result of misconduct in public office.”
February 10, 2015: Viktor Shokin takes office as Ukraine’s prosecutor general, replacing Yarema.
NOTE: Shokin was born 4 November 1952 in Kiev. After graduating from the Kharkiv Law Institute (today Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University) in 1980, Shokin worked for the Prosecutor General Office as investigator until 2001. In an interview with Ukrayinska Pravda he stated that he was forced to retire in 2001 after refusing to take on the case against Yulia Tymoshenko. Shokin was appointed Prosecutor General of Ukraine on 10 February 2015, replacing Vitaly Yarema. He was a controversial appointee due to his perceived role in blocking prosecutions against those accused of shooting demonstrators in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. As Prosecutor General, he was accused of blocking major cases against allies and influential figures and hindering the fight against corruption in Ukraine.
Over the next year, the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund criticized officials for not doing enough to fight corruption in Ukraine. Shokin took no action to pursue cases against Zlochevsky throughout 2015, said Kasko, who was Shokin’s deputy overseeing international cooperation and helping in asset-recovery investigations. Kasko said he had urged Shokin to pursue the investigations.
March 2015: After the dismissal of Oleksandr Lazorko, who was a protege of Kolomoyskyi, as a chief executive of UkrTransNafta, Ukraine’s state-owned oil pipeline operator, men reported to be Kolomoyskyi’s personal militia raided the UkrTransNafta’s headquarters to expel the new government-appointed chief from the office. While Lazorko was in charge the state-owned pipelines had been delivering oil to an Kolomoisky-owned refinery in preference to competitors.
March 25, 2015: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree dismissing Kolomoyskyi from the post of Dnipropetrovsk RSA Head, saying “Dnipropetrovsk region must remain a bastion of Ukraine in the East and protect peace”. Kolomoyskyi was replaced by Valentyn Reznichenko.
April 17, 2015: Deputy head of the DODA Filatov stated that Kolomoisky would pay $10,000 for each transferred Russian saboteur.
April 22, 2015: Deputy head of the National Defense Staff of the Dnipropetrovsk region Mikhail Lysenko informed that Kolomoisky paid 10 thousand US dollars for the arrest of 8 Russian saboteurs.
May 2015: SFO spokeswoman told The Guardian, “We are disappointed we were not provided with the evidence by authorities in the Ukraine necessary to keep this restraint order in place.” The newspaper said she “declined to comment further because she said the investigation was ongoing.”
June 3, 2015: A $500,000 reward was given by Kolomoyskyi for the delivery of Oleg Tsarov, leader of the separatists, to the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine.
September 24, 2015: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt excoriates officials in the Prosecutor General’s Office for stymying anti-corruption investigations, including those involving Burisma. Pyatt’s speech was part of a regular drumbeat by U.S. and other Western leaders, including Vice President Biden, and a swath of Ukrainian civil society seeking to pressure President Poroshenko to force his officials, especially in the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to crack down more, not less, on corruption. “Corruption kills,” Pyatt said in the address to the Odesa Financial Forum for business leaders. “It kills productivity and smothers inspiration. Ideas are lost in its shadow. Innovation and entrepreneurship lag under the weight of bribery, back room dealing, and bullying.”
NOTE: While giving Shokin a last chance to shape up (Pyatt says, “We want to work with Prosecutor General Shokin so the PGO is leading the fight against corruption.”), the ambassador criticizes “officials at the PGO’s office” for not providing documents that were needed for the British investigation of Burisma owner Zlochevskiy and effectively allowing Zlochevskiy to transfer $23 million of what Pyatt says were Ukrainian taxpayer assets to Cyprus. In other words, Pyatt is critical of the prosecutor’s office for not aiding in investigations of Burisma’s owner, which was in line with Biden’s criticism that the office was blocking corruption investigations. Pyatt specifically called for the investigation and removal of officials who were involved in the failure to help the British authorities investigate Zlochevskiy:
“We have learned that there have been times that the PGO not only did not support investigations into corruption, but rather undermined prosecutors working on legitimate corruption cases.
For example, in the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized 23 million dollars in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people. Officials at the PGO’s office were asked by the U.K to send documents supporting the seizure.
Instead they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. As a result, the money was freed by the U.K. court and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.
The misconduct by the PGO officials who wrote those letters should be investigated, and those responsible for subverting the case by authorizing those letters should – at a minimum – be summarily terminated.”
October 8, 2015: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continues the drumbeat on the need for stepped-up anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in testimony that “the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has to be reinvented as an institution that serves the citizens of Ukraine, rather than ripping them off.” She continues, “That means it must investigate and successfully prosecute corruption and asset recovery cases, including locking up dirty personnel in the PGO itself.”
Fall 2015: Vice President Biden, along with the EU, publicly calls for ouster of Prosecutor General Shokin for failure to work on anti-corruption efforts.
John E. Herbst, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine under George W. Bush, later testified before Congress:
“By late fall of 2015, the EU and the United States joined the chorus of those seeking Mr. Shokin’s removal as the start of an overall reform of the Procurator General’s Office. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke publicly about this before and during his December visit to Kyiv.”
December 8, 2015: Vice President Biden makes a speech to Ukraine’s Parliament urging the country to step up anti-corruption measures. In a speech covered widely in news media, Biden implores Ukrainian lawmakers to move more quickly to fight the country’s “historic battle against corruption” and “make real the Revolution of Dignity.” (Many of the lawmakers themselves were former businessmen and suspected of corruption and therefore that much less interested in fighting graft.) He says,
“The only thing worse than having no hope at all is having hopes rise and see them dashed repeatedly on the shoals of corruption…Not enough has been done yet.”
Specifically citing Shokin’s Office of the General Prosecutor for lagging on corruption investigations, he continues:
“It’s not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption. The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled. The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals. It’s not enough to push through laws to increase transparency with regard to official sources of income. Senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities. Every other democracy in the world — that system pertains.
Oligarchs and non-oligarchs must play by the same rules. They have to pay their taxes, settle their disputes in court — not by bullying judges. That’s basic. That’s how nations succeed in the 21st century.
Corruption siphons away resources from the people. It blunts the economic growth, and it affronts the human dignity. We know that. You know that. The Ukrainian people know that. When Russia seeks to use corruption as a tool of coercion, reform isn’t just good governance, it’s self-preservation. It’s in the national security interest of the nation ….
The United States is with you in this fight…We’ve stepped up with official assistance to help backstop the Ukrainian economy. We’ve rallied the international community to commit a total of $25 billion in bilateral and multilateral financing to support Ukraine. It includes $2 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and the possibility of more.
Yesterday I announced almost $190 million in new American assistance to help Ukraine fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, implement critical reform, bolster civil society, advance energy security. That brings our total of direct aid to almost $760 million in direct assistance, in addition to loan guarantees since this crisis broke out. And that is not the end of what we’re prepared to do if you keep moving.
But for Ukraine to continue to make progress and to keep the support of the international community you have to do more, as well. The big part of moving forward with your IMF program — it requires difficult reforms.”
2016: Ihor Kolomoisky and his business partner Gennadiy Bogolyubov were accused of defrauding Ukraine’s largest bank PrivatBank of billions of dollars. The Ukrainian government nationalized the bank in 2016 after paying off a $5.6 billion bailout. The lawsuit against Kolomoisky was brought by PrivatBank to the High Court in London and initially resulted in freezing $2.6 billion of the oligarch’s assets.
The IMF, which had given Ukraine a $17.5 billion aid package in 2015, backed the nationalization but insisted earlier this year that “it is important that the authorities continue their efforts to recover losses from former owners and related parties of failed banks.”
NOTE: Kolomoisky left for Switzerland after PrivatBank was nationalised, when regulators found a $5.6bn black hole in its balance sheet. He then moved to Israel apparently over fears he could be extradited to the US.
NOTE: The FBI is investigating Kolomoisky and his business partner Gennady Bogolyubov over allegations they laundered hundreds of millions of dollars through PrivatBank’s Cyprus branch and used fraudulent lending to fund their other businesses, according to people familiar with the matter.
January 21, 2016: Vice President Biden meets with Ukrainian President Poroshenko and discusses “the need to continue to move forward on Ukraine’s anti-corruption agenda,” according to a readout on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
February 11, 2016: Vice President Biden speaks with Poroshenko by phone. A U.S. Embassy statement said the two agreed “that it is essential for Ukraine to continue to take action to root out corruption and implement reforms.”
February 15, 2016: Vitaly Kasko resigned, denouncing the corruption and “total lawlessness” of the Prosecutor’s office. In late March, just before Shokin’s dismissal, Kasko was accused of fraud and had his apartment seized in what he claims was a revenge for his criticism.
February 16, 2016: Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin resigns, then returns to office before finally being ousted
NOTE: Ukrainian news media report that Shokin resigned as Prosecutor General after months of intense criticism for failing to adequately pursue any major corruption cases. Despite President Poroshenko’s public call that day that Shokin resign and the apparent submission of a resignation letter on Feb. 19, media cited a prosecutor in Shokin’s office on March 16 saying the chief prosecutor was back after a “long leave.”
The European Union issued a statement hailing Shokin’s departure.
The respected English-language Kyiv Post writes, “By the end of his term, he was likely one of the most unpopular figures in Ukraine, having earned a bad reputation for inaction and obstructing top cases.” The paper also says it “wasn’t able to find any public comments that Shokin made about [Burisma] during his 14 months in office.”
February 18-19, 2016: Vice President Biden speaks by phone with Ukrainian President Poroshenko. The Feb. 19 U.S. Embassy statement says Biden again urged the Ukrainian leader to “to accelerate Ukraine’s efforts to fight corruption, strengthen justice and the rule of law, and fulfill its IMF requirements.”
March 29, 2016: The Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve Poroshenko’s recommendation to dismiss Shokin.
April 14, 2016: Vice President Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Poroshenko by phone, emphasizing “the urgency of putting in place a new Prosecutor General who would bolster the agency’s anti-corruption efforts and strongly support the work of its reformers.”
April 14, 2016: Vice President Biden speaks with with newly elected Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. by phone, emphasizing “the urgency of putting in place a new Prosecutor General who would bolster the agency’s anti-corruption efforts and strongly support the work of its reformers.”
May 12, 2016: Yuriy Lutsenko, who had headed Poroshenko’s political bloc in Parliament, takes office as prosecutor general, after Parliament changed the law to allow someone without a law degree and legal experience to hold the position.
NOTE: According to the New York Times, “Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma.”
August 14, 2016: Paul Manafort by this time was Trump’s campaign chairman, and the evidence appeared to show off-the-books payments by the discredited, pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Yanukovych when Manafort served as his political consultant. The payments were recorded in a “black ledger” of Yanukovych’s political party that was turned over to Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU).
August 19, 2016: Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament who had been swept into office with the 2014 revolution, holds a news conference to discuss the ledger and criticize the payments to Manafort.
NOTE: Rudy Giuliani has cited the revelations as evidence that certain Ukrainians, supported by the Obama administration at the time, were colluding with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal information tainting Manafort and, by association, Trump, in order to influence the election. Giuliani in May 2019 accused Leshchenko personally on Fox News of colluding with Democrats.
September 2016: In a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website, Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, says that a court in Kyiv ordered a case closed because no evidence of wrongdoing had been presented.
December 2016: A survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology found that thirty four percent of respondents in the government-controlled Ukraine regarded the change in power from Yanukovych to Poroshenko as an “illegal armed coup”, while fifty six percent regarded it as a “popular revolution”.
December 18, 2016: Ukraine nationalises PrivatBank, previously owned by oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Gennady Bogolyubov, after authorities identified a $5.5bn balance sheet hole.
May 10, 2017: Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office at the White House, just months after taking office and the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey. A photographer for the official Russian news agency Tass was the only journalist allowed into the meeting. The Washington Post reported the following week that Trump had “revealed highly classified information” that “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.”
NOTE: On Sept. 26, 2019, the Post reported further that Trump told the Russian officials that he “was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries,” and that the president even “seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections.”
June 8, 2017: Rudolph William Louis Giuliani, who has had business of his own in Ukraine in the past, meets with President Petro Poroshenko and Prosecutor General Lutsenko, among other officials, during a visit to Kyiv, hosted by the foundation of billionaire Ukrainian metals magnate Victor Pinchuk, for a lecture on democracy and the rule of law.
NOTE: The meetings are cited in the joint U.S. House committee investigation launched later in September 2019 into Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine.
July 25, 2017: Trump tweets a reference to what he calls “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — `quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G.,” he writes, referencing then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and tagging Fox News host Sean Hannity. The tweet was referenced in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible obstruction of justice by the U.S. president to block the investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russia’s 2016 election interference.
NOTE: It also is cited in the September 2019 joint U.S. House committee letter on the investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s pressure campaign against Ukraine.
December 19, 2017: State-owned PrivatBank secures a High Court ruling in London imposing a freeze on more than $2.5bn of “worldwide” assets belonging to the bank’s former owners, Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov. The move triggers scores of counter lawsuits in Ukrainian courts.
2018: The High Court in London ruled that it had no jurisdiction for further proceedings and found that “PrivatBank “fabricated” the case in an attempt to bring a claim in London”
NOTE: The IMF central bank released the findings of an investigation by corporate investigations consultancy Kroll that said that, prior to nationalization, Privatbank had been subjected to “a large-scale and coordinated fraud over at least a 10-year period ending in December 2016.”
January 2018: Kolomoisky and his partners who jointly held a minority stake in oil producer Ukrnafta, increase their claim against Ukraine from $4.7bn to $5.4bn in a Stockholm arbitration case over losses allegedly incurred after Ukraine reduced their control over the company in 2015
January 23, 2018: Following a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, Biden touts his tough stance with Ukraine in 2016. He says he told Ukrainian leaders that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless they fired Prosecutor General Shokin.
NOTE: Trump and Giuliani have cited that boast repeatedly as proof that Biden admitted pushing for Shokin’s firing, even though Biden was calling for the prosecutor to be fired because he wasn’t pursuing corruption cases vigorously enough. In the CFR appearance, Biden makes the comments in the context of expressing his concern that Ukraine still was not getting tough enough on corruption.
“I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.” Biden continued, “So they made some genuine substantial changes institutionally and with people. But … there’s now some backsliding.”
“The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practice,” the New York Times reported at the time.
Steven Pifer is a career foreign service officer who was ambassador to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs under President George W. Bush.
He told PolitiFact that “virtually everyone” he knew in the U.S. government “felt that Shokin was not doing his job and should be fired. As far as I can recall, they all concurred with the vice president telling Poroshenko that the U.S. government would not extend the $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine until Shokin was removed from office.”
Vitaliy Kasko, a former deputy prosecutor general who had worked under Shokin and resigned in frustration at his stymying of corruption investigations, told Bloomberg News (in a May 2019 interview) that the office’s probe into Burisma Holdings had been long dormant by the time Joe Biden issued his ultimatum in 2016.
“There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against” Burisma owner Zlochevskiy, Bloomberg quoted Kasko as saying. “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015,” Kasko said.
“Shokin was not investigating. He didn’t want to investigate Burisma,” Daria Kaleniuk a leading Ukrainian anti-corruption advocate, told the Washington Post. “And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation.”
NOTE: At time of British investigation in 2014-2015, Shokin’s Office sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him.
February 2018: Mykola Zlochevsky returned to Ukraine after the corruption investigations into Burisma had been completed in December 2017 with no charges filed against him.
Late 2018: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, arrange a Skype call between Giuliani and Shokin, according to an investigation by the nonprofit Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published in BuzzFeed News. The two businessmen also connect Giuliani with then-Prosecutor General Lutsenko. Giuliani invites Lutsenko to his office in New York, a meeting they arrange for January.
NOTE: Lutsenko told the LA Times that he had numerous conversations with Guiliani on the phone. He also tells the paper that Giuliani pressed him repeatedly to open an investigation on the Bidens and Burisma, even though Lutsenko had seen no evidence of legal wrongdoing.
January 2019: Giuliani and Lutsenko meet in New York over the space of two-to-three days. They discuss “the Ukrainian political situation and the fight against corruption,” Bloomberg News reports, paraphrasing Lutsenko.
“Giuliani asked him about investigations into the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, as well as whether the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was `not loyal to Trump,’” the article says.
NOTE: The two met “multiple times” during those days in New York, and Lutsenko told associates that, during their first meeting in January, Giuliani excitedly called Trump to brief the President on what he had found, the New York Times reported. Giuliani “acknowledged that he has discussed the matter with the president on multiple occasions,” the Times wrote.
Mid-February 2019: Giuliani meets with Lutsenko again in Warsaw, according to the OCCRP/BuzzFeed report.
March 2019: Following his meetings with Giuliani, prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko announces he is opening two investigations.
“The decision to reopen the investigation into Burisma was made … by the current Ukrainian prosecutor general [Lutsenko], who had cleared Hunter Biden’s employer more than two years ago. The announcement … was seen in some quarters as an effort by the prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, to curry favor from the Trump administration for his boss and ally, the incumbent president,” the New York Times reported (in May 2019).
March 20, 2019: The Hill’s conservative opinion writer John Solomon publishes an interview with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who by this point has been widely criticized as ineffective and likely corrupt. Lutsenko also tells Solomon, “Today we will launch a criminal investigation about” the Manafort disclosure in the 2016 election.
Note: Solomon and Fox News’s Sean Hannity are among a constellation of conservative media figures who regularly help spread Trump and Giuliani’s Biden and Manafort theories as well as other right-wing conspiracy theories, such as Uranium One, which have been debunked and shown to exclude vital information.
Solomon was moved to the opinion section at The Hill, and announced Sept. 18, 2019, that he was leaving the publication.
Lutsenko alleged that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who took office in August 2016, gave him a “do not prosecute” list at their first meeting. The State Department says the claim was “an outright fabrication.” The article says Lutsenko was examining Ukrainian civil society activists who he suspected were misusing U.S. aid funding they had received, but he says Yovanovitch told him the U.S. Embassy is confident the funding was secure.
Ukraine expert Melinda Haring of the Atlantic Council says Lutsenko is “woefully unqualified (he doesn’t have a law degree), has dragged his feet on every serious anti-corruption case since being installed, and protected his friends, including Poroshenko.”
She continues, “Sean Hannity made Solomon the star of his prime-time show that evening. Trump watches Hannity, reportedly speaks with him multiple times daily, and tweeted the title of Solomon’s story. More than 25,000 retweets later, the Ukrainian collusion narrative went viral.”
Solomon later airs part of the video interview in which Lutsenko raises allegations against Biden and Burisma, and says he wants to present his information to Attorney General William Barr.
NOTE: Lutsenko later retracts many of his allegations, including against the Bidens and the U.S. Embassy‘s involvement in the 2016 election.
March 24, 2019: Donald Trump Jr. tweets criticism of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch, calling her a “joker” and linking to a conservative media outlet’s article about calls for her ouster. The two incidents are part of a pattern of conservative attacks against the ambassador. Within less than two months, Yovanovitch is recalled to Washington.
March 31, 2019: First round of Ukraine’s presidential election, which results in runoff between Zelenskyy and Poroshenko scheduled for April 21.
April 2019: A Ukrainian court ruled that the nationalisation of PrivatBank was illegal. Ukraine’s central bank said it would not be possible to reverse the nationalisation and that it would appeal the decision.
NOTE: Kolomoisky states that he has no interest in taking over control of the bank and seeks $2bn in compensation for losses he insists were incurred during the nationalisation.
April 2019: Hunter Biden leaves the board of Burisma Holdings
April 1, 2019: The Hill newspaper publishes another article online by the same conservative investigative columnist John Solomon that advances the Trump-Giuliani story about Biden. The article reports that Shokin had said in written answers to questions that he had planned an investigation of Burisma before he was fired, including questioning all executive board members.
NOTE: The article says Lutsenko, Shokin’s successor, and “a case file” indicate that the Prosecutor General’s Office had handled three cases related to Burisma, and that the “most prominent” case was transferred to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which Solomon describes suggestively as “closely aligned with the U.S. Embassy in Kiev,” even though it had long been public knowledge that Western supporters of Ukraine and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists strongly backed the bureau. The article says NABU closed that case.
April 18, 2019: A Kiev court annuls the 2016 decision of Ukraine’s central bank to declare PrivatBank insolvent, threatening to reverse the 2016 nationalisation. The bank appeals against the decision.
April 18, 2019: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report is publicly released, outlining the findings of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
April 21, 2019: Volodymyr Zelenskyy is elected president of Ukraine, to succeed Petro Poroshenko. He ran on a “zero tolerance” anti-corruption agenda.
April 21, 2019: Trump calls to congratulate him, their first known direct communication.
Trump “urged Mr. Zelensky to coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and to pursue investigations of ‘corruption,’” the New York Times reports (on Sept. 25, 2019).
April 25, 2019: Joe Biden formally announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination and President.
April 25, 2019: Trump tells Fox News’s Sean Hannity that Attorney General Bill Barr is considering allegations that Ukrainians sought to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign by revealing damaging information about Paul Manafort.
“I would imagine [Barr] would want to see this. … I would certainly defer to the attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it,” Trump said. “He calls ’em straight”.
Fox News reports that “Trump echoed his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who wrote on Twitter on Wednesday [April 24]: `Keep your eye on Ukraine.’”
April 29, 2019: “U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the situation” told the whistleblower that U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch was being “suddenly recalled” to Washington for “consultations” and “would most likely be removed from her position.”
NOTE: The State Department announced on May 6 that she would be ending her assignment. They said it was “as planned,” but in fact, her assignment had been curtailed because of Lutsenko’s allegations. Giuliani told a Ukrainian journalist in an interview published May 14 that Yovanovitch was “removed…because she was part of the efforts against the President,” the whistleblower wrote.
Around the same time, the whistleblower writes that he “learned from a U.S. official that `associates’ of Mr. Giuliani were trying to make contact with the incoming Zelenskyy team.” He didn’t know whether the associates were the same two businessmen (Parnas and Fruman) who connected Giuliani with Shokin and Lutsenko.
May 1, 2019: Attorney General William Barr stumbles and appears to try to avoid answering U.S. Senator Kamala Harris during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when she asks,
“Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?” He finally states in his answer, “I don’t know.”
May 9, 2019: Giuliani tells the New York Times he plans to travel to Kyiv and meet with President-elect Zelenskyy to urge him to investigate the Bidens as well as Ukrainians who might have worked with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal the Manafort information.
“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani tells the newspaper. “There’s nothing illegal about it,” he said. “Somebody could say it’s improper.”
NOTE: The newspaper notes the trip is
“part of a months-long effort by the former New York mayor and a small group of Trump allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try to discredit the special counsel’s investigation; undermine the case against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman; and potentially to damage Mr. Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.”
The news ignites a firestorm of bipartisan condemnation that Giuliani is improperly seeking the help of a foreign government to benefit Trump’s re-election campaign.
In a later editorial for the Washington Post (on Sept. 21, 2019), former Ukrainian anti-corruption activist and member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko writes:
“Giuliani attempted to visit Ukraine in May 2019 with the express purpose of involving Zelensky in this process. His aim was quite clear: He was planning to ask Zelensky to intervene in an American election on the side of Trump.
May 9, 2019: Giuliani, in an interview with Fox News, raises his theory of Ukrainian collusion with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 to smear Trump with Manafort payments allegations.
Giuliani says he received such information “about three or four months ago.” Giuliani also discusses his theory about the Bidens in Ukraine, and he tries to implicate the U.S. Embassy in both.
May 10, 2019: Trump says in an interview with Politico,
“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing” for him to ask Attorney General Barr to open an investigation on Biden. “I have not spoken to him about it. Would I speak to him about it? I haven’t thought of that,” he adds.
NOTE: Trump says he sees Biden as the clear front-runner in the Democratic race and likens it to his own surge toward the Republican nomination in 2016. He also says he will speak with Giuliani about the former mayor’s planned trip to Ukraine and that they hadn’t discussed it “at any great length.”
May 11, 2019: Giuliani tells Fox News he called off his trip to Ukraine because he believes he would be “walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president, and in some cases, enemies of the United States,” a particularly harsh reference that sounds like it is meant for Ukrainian anti-corruption reformers who are rejecting his and Trump’s conspiracy theories. The decision follows bipartisan backlash in the United States over Giuliani’s seeking foreign support for Trump’s re-election.
NOTE: Former Ukrainian member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst say Zelenskyy actually had declined Giuliani’s request for a meeting, which could explain Giuliani’s tone of rejection. Herbst commented,
“My understanding is that the president-elect’s party and his group said that the President-elect [Zelenskyy] sees no reason to have a meeting about an issue which is so transparently an American domestic political issue.”
May 14, 2019: Trump instructs Vice President Mike Pence “to cancel his planned trip to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy’s inauguration. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the U.S. delegation instead,” writes the whistleblower, who cites unnamed “U.S. officials.”
“According to these officials, it was also `made clear’ to them that the President did not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy `chose to act,’” the whistleblower wrote.
May 14, 2019: Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Lutsenko tells Bloomberg News that he has “no evidence of wrongdoing” by either of the Bidens and that neither Hunter Biden nor Burisma were the focus of any current investigation. He said he planned to give U.S. authorities information about Burisma board payments, so that the U.S. could check whether Hunter Biden had paid taxes on his income, though there were no restrictions in Ukraine on how much a company could pay to its board members.
May 14, 2019: Attorney General Barr appoints John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead a probe into the origins of the Russia investigation. Barr had reportedly initiated the investigation of the investigation about three weeks earlier.
May 18, 2019: Giuliani repeats on Twitter his claim that Zelenskyy
“has surrounded himself with some people that are enemies of Trump.”
May 20-24, 2019: Zelenskyy is inaugurated as president, taking over from Poroshenko. Shortly afterwards, the whistleblower writes,
“it was publicly reported that Mr. Giuliani met with two other Ukrainian officials: Ukraine’s Special Anticorruption Prosecutor, Mr. Nazar Kholodnytskyy, and a former Ukrainian diplomat named Andriy Telizhenko.” (Public reports of these meetings included Ukrainian and US media outlets.) Both, the whistleblower continues, “are allies of Mr. Lutsenko and made similar allegations” in a series of articles in The Hill. The two businessmen Parnas and Fruman who connected Giuliani with Shokin and Lutsenko reportedly join the meeting with Giuliani and Kholodnytskyy in Paris.
Mid May to early July 2019: According to the whistleblower’s complaint, in this period, “multiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between Trump and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on the issues that had been publicly aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani.”
May 21, 2019: PrivatBank issues a civil action in Delaware against the bank’s former owners, claiming they recycled $470bn siphoned from the bank through dealings in the US.
Neither Kolomoisky, nor any of the related parties, have been charged with any offences in Ukraine.
NOTE: The lawsuit in Delaware describes “a Ponzi-type scheme” that redirected the loan proceeds via a PrivatBank branch in Cyprus to entities in the US, where the money was used to buy property and various steel plants in the Midwest — making these companies which Kolomoisky co-owns the largest commercial real estate owners in Cleveland.
It accuses the men of moving a staggering $470bn into Cyprus over a decade — about double the island’s gross domestic product over the same period — through “loan recycling”.
May 23, 2019: White House meeting including Kurt Volker, Perry and/or Sondland. The meeting is referenced without elaboration in a Sept. 30, 2019 House of Representatives subpoena to Giuliani. Volker tweeted that the meeting was to brief the White House on their and Republican Senator Ron Johnson’s recent trip to Ukraine.
June 4, 2019: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is seated next to Zelenskyy at a dinner in Brussels hosted by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, part of an early Embassy celebration of the U.S. Independence Day. Kushner had dropped off from Trump’s visit to the U.K. to attend the occasion in Brussels.
June 11, 2019: Zelenskyy sends a motion to Parliament asking that it dismiss sitting Prosecutor General Lutsenko.
June 13, 2019: Trump says he would accept dirt on his political rivals from a foreign government, a statement noted by the whistleblower, whose complaint references the relevant interview of the president with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.
June 21, 2019: Giuliani tweets,
“New Pres of Ukraine still silent on investigation of Ukrainian interference in 2016 election and alleged Biden bribery of Pres Poroshenko. Time for leadership and investigate both if you want to purge how Ukraine was abused by Hillary and Obama people.”
Early to mid-July 2019: Trump tells his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine at least a week before his phone call with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, the Washington Post reports. The decision was communicated by OMB to State and Defense department officials on July 18. The Post includes details of internal processes, including that “besides Bolton [the president’s national security adviser], several other administration officials said they did not know why the aid was being canceled or why a meeting was not being scheduled.”
NOTE: The hold on the funding contradicts the Trump administration’s stance in favor of aiding Ukraine’s defense against the Russian-backed forces fighting to control eastern Ukraine. The administration had approved lethal defensive weapons sales in 2017, a move the Obama administration had resisted. The Department of Defense conducted the ordered review and determined that the support should continue and informed the White House of its recommendation, according to Politico and CNN.
National Security Adviser John Bolton also wanted to release the funds to help Ukraine curtail Russian aggression, the Washington Post reports.
Fox News reports that “the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council were `unanimous’ in supporting the aid to Ukraine, and that Trump acted alone in withholding the aid over the summer.”
July 19, 2019: Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy, reportedly requests assistance from the State Department’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, to be put in touch with Giuliani. Volker sends a text message to Giuliani saying,
“Mr. Mayor—really enjoyed breakfast this morning. As discussed, connecting you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky.”
NOTE: Yermak speaks with Giuliani for the first time by phone. They discuss the Trump-Giuliani demands for investigations and the new Ukrainian leader’s desire for a White House meeting to affirm continued U.S. support for Ukraine.
“Mr. Giuliani in television appearances over the summer had repeatedly singled out Ukraine over corruption, putting pressure on Mr. Zelensky’s new administration. Yermak called Mr. Giuliani to ask him to tone it down, according to a person familiar with the call. Mr. Giuliani in response suggested that Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with Burisma,” the Wall Street Journal reports (on Sept. 26).
July 22, 2019: The Court of Appeal in London will begin hearings to decide whether the English courts have jurisdiction over the PrivatBank case and whether the asset freeze should be lifted on assets owned by Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov.
July 23-26, 2019: “During interagency meetings, OMB officials again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale,” the whistleblower wrote.
July 24, 2019: Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies in two hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on his report.
July 25, 2019: A text message between Volker and Yermak — the aide to Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy — which occurred just ahead of the Trump-Zelenskiy call, Volker writes:
“Heard from White House—assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate/’get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington.”
July 25, 2019: Gordon Sondland, America’s ambassador to the European Union, travelled to Ukraine and met with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky
NOTE: On Friday, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wisc.) told the Wall Street Journal that Sondland had told him in late August that the Trump administration’s offer of aid to Ukraine was tied to the country’s willingness to try and dig up dirt on Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who had previously worked for a Ukrainian company. Johnson told the Journal that he brought the issue up with Trump, who denied a quid pro quo.
July 25, 2019: Trump and Zelenskyy have their second conversation. An English-language press release issued by Zelenskyy’s office about the call says:
“Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve [the] image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA. He also confirmed continued support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the United States and the readiness of the American side to fully contribute to the implementation of a Large-Scale Reform Program in our country.”
The two presidents “agreed to substantively discuss practical issues of Ukrainian-American cooperation during the visit of the Ukrainian head of state to the United States,” the release continued.
Zelenskyy had been hoping for a warm reception from the U.S. president and a White House meeting as an important signal to affirm continued American support for Ukraine’s war against Russian forces controlling the country’s east and for comprehensive reform and economic development efforts. Ukraine advocates in the U.S. also had thought a White House invitation would be forthcoming any day, but it was never scheduled.
NOTE: An intelligence community whistleblower complaint revealed in September that reportedly involves the Trump-Zelenskyy July 25 call prompts a flurry of revelations about the conversation until the declassification of a transcript of the call.
Before the release of the transcript, Trump admits he discussed Biden on the call and says U.S. funding for Ukraine is at stake.
July 26, 2019: U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker and US Embassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland meet with Zelenskyy in Kyiv. The two advised the Ukrainian leader on “how to `navigate’ the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy,” according to the whistleblower’s complaint.
July 28, 2019: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats submits his resignation, effective Aug. 15. One of President Trump’s longest-serving Cabinet members, Coats also stirred his boss’s ire at times with his policy disagreements and lukewarm endorsements of the President’s positions.
July 31, 2019: Giuliani meets in New York with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who is in a power struggle with Zelenskyy over a second title he holds as head of the city’s administration. Giuliani and Klitschko have known each other for years – the former Ukrainian boxing champion hired the former New York mayor as a consultant on his Kyiv mayoral campaign in 2008.
NOTE: On Sept. 4, Zelenskyy stripped Klitschko of the head of administration post, apparently in a move to restore checks-and-balances in the capital.
August 2, 2019: Giuliani meets in Madrid with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy. Having been rebuffed in June for a meeting in Kyiv with Zelenskyy personally, Giuliani flies to Madrid to press the new Ukrainian president’s aide, Yermak, for an investigation of the Bidens as well as a probe of the allegation that Ukrainians conspired with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 to release damaging information about Paul Manafort.
NOTE: The Madrid meeting was a “`direct followup’” to the July 25 Trump-Zelenskyy phone call and specifically to their discussion of the cases the U.S. president raised in that conversation, according to the whistleblower’s complaint. From Madrid, Giuliani resurfaces his allegations against the Bidens in a tweet on Aug. 3.
Giuliani has said Yermak seemed open to considering the investigations, but also pressed for a Trump-Zelenskyy meeting as a sign of continued U.S. support to Ukraine in its war against Russia and its economic development and internal reform efforts.
“I talked to him about the whole package,” Giuliani told the Washington Post. The Post reported that “U.S. officials and members of the Trump administration wanted the meeting [between the two Presidents] to go ahead, but Trump personally rejected efforts to set it up, according to three people familiar with the discussions.”
August 12, 2019: Trump speaks to reporters outside the White House about a range of issues, including the following exchange:
Q: Mr. President, do you plan invite your Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House? And what would be your advice for him —
THE PRESIDENT: Who are you talking about?
Q: The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q: Do you plan to invite him to the White House? And what would be your advice for him on how to communicate with Vladimir Putin to stop the conflict in Eastern Ukraine?
THE PRESIDENT: I think he’s going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House. And we look forward to seeing him. He’s already been invited to the White House, and he wants to come. And I think he will. He’s a very reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine. And I think he will be coming very soon, actually.
August 12, 2019: A whistleblower files a complaint to Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson related to an alleged “urgent concern”that news reports later reveal likely centers on activities involving Trump and Ukraine. The ICIG determines the complaint meets the definition of an “urgent concern” and is credible, and forwards it on Aug. 26 to Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire, who under the law was required to transmit the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees within seven days.
NOTE: The Justice Department, however, takes the position that the statute does not apply on the ground that the complaint does not involve “an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence.” The complaint remains under wraps until House Intelligence Committee Chairman reveals its existence on Sept. 13.
August 15, 2019: DNI Coats leaves office. Principal Deputy Director Sue Gordon resigns too, after it became clear that Trump would not select her to succeed Coats.
August 26, 2019: The Inspector General forwards the intelligence community whistleblower complaint to Acting DNI Maguire.
August 28, 2019: Then-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton becomes the first high-level Trump administration official to visit Kyiv since President Zelenskyy’s inauguration. Bolton says the two discussed a possible meeting between the two presidents during a trip Trump planned at the time to Poland.
August 28, 2019: Politico breaks the news that Trump was delaying the distribution of $250 million of fiscal 2019 security assistance that Ukraine needs to fight its war with Russia on its eastern flank, by asking his administration to review how it was being spent.
NOTE: The hold on the aid package at the same time as Trump and Giuliani were agitating publicly for Ukraine to investigate Biden raises the specter that the U.S. president was using congressionally appropriated taxpayer dollars as leverage to coerce a foreign government to investigate his potential rival in the 2020 election.
It later emerges that a separate military aid package of $141.5 million in Foreign Military Financing also was included in the suspension, for a total of almost $400 million.
August 29, 2019: Zelenskyy appoints lawyer and former Deputy Minister of Justice Ruslan Riaboshapka as the new prosecutor general, replacing Yuriy Lutsenko, who steps down the same day.
September 2019: The Wall Street Journal reports, “Ukrainian officials earlier this month expressed concern to U.S. senators that the aid had been held up as a penalty for resisting that pressure.”
September 2, 2019: Vice President Mike Pence, a day after meeting with the new Ukrainian president, doesn’t directly answer a reporter’s question about whether he can assure Ukrainians that the delay in $250 million of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine is unrelated to President Trump’s and Rudy Giuliani’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
September 5, 2019: New Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka brings Vitaliy Kasko back to the office as First Deputy Prosecutor General, a move that promises to help restore integrity to the office. Kasko is the former deputy of Shokin’s who had quit out of frustration.
September 5, 2019: Inspector General for the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson informs House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes of the whistleblower complaint’s existence
September 9, 2019: The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees announce a joint investigation of Trump and Giuliani’s alleged efforts to strong arm Ukraine into pursuing two investigations for the president’s political gain, including by threatening to withhold $250 million in security assistance.
The joint press release says public records show the efforts have continued “for nearly two years” and were conducted “under the guise of anti-corruption activity.”
September 11, 2019: State Department notifies Congress that it will provide Ukraine with $141.5 million of military equipment and other assistance under its “Foreign Military Financing” program that is available for a number of countries. The news emerges the next day, Sept. 12, at the same time that U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says the administration has released its hold on the separate $250 million of military assistance for Ukraine from the Defense Department under a program known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. Trump gave permission to the OMB’s acting director, Russell Vought, to release the funds.
NOTE: The timing of the news on both aid packages leads to speculation that the Trump administration was topping up its bribe/extortion of Ukraine, but the Foreign Military Financing likely had been in the works for months, possibly a year.
September 13, 2019: House Intelligence Committee Chair Schiff announces that he has issued a subpoena to Acting DNI Maguire to obtain a complaint from a whistleblower filed under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) that, under the law, should have been provided to the congressional intelligence committees.
Schiff says he is concerned the complaint is being withheld “to cover up serious misconduct” and “to protect the President or other Administration officials.”
September 17, 2019: The Inspector General for the Intelligence Community sends letter to House Intelligence Chairman Schiff and Ranking Member Nunes outlining his disagreement with the administration’s decision to withhold the whistleblower’s complaint from the congressional intelligence committees.
The Inspector General’s letter states, “the subject matter involved in the complainant’s disclosure not only falls within the DNI’s jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”
September 18, 2019: Vice President Pence speaks with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy by phone, discussing a scheduled meeting between the two presidents during the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York the following week.
Pence “commended President Zelenskyy’s administration for its bold action to tackle corruption through legislative reforms, and offered full U.S. support for those efforts,” according to a U.S. Embassy statement.
September 19, 2019: In a text Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. sent to Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union. Taylor, the career diplomat says:
“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
(Five hours later) Sondland responds:
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” Sondland continues, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”
NOTE: Gordon Sondland, a hotelier and Republican megadonor, contributed over $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee before eventually being nominated and confirmed to be the United States representative to the European Union, serving since July 2018.
September 20, 2019: A senior advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister challenges Trump to make official U.S. government request if he wants an investigation of Biden. The adviser,
Anton Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast that “currently there is no open investigation.”
He adds, “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison.”
September 22, 2019: After days of insisting there was nothing inappropriate about his telephone call with Zelenskyy, Trump acknowledges discussing Joe Biden with the Ukrainian leader during their July 25 phone call.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters.
September 22-23, 2019: Trump, in two sets of remarks to reporters asking about his July 25 phone call with Zelenskyy, appears to confirm a connection between U.S. financial assistance for Ukraine and his pressure for the country’s leaders to pursue the investigations he wants.
“Certainly I’d have every right to [raise Biden with the Ukrainian President] if there’s corruption and we are paying lots of money to a country.”
Trump has repeatedly referred to what he falsely claims the Bidens to have done as “corruption.” “It’s very important to talk about corruption,” Trump tells the reporters on Sept. 23. “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?…It’s very important that on occasion you speak to somebody about corruption.”
September 23, 2019: The chairmen of the three House committees conducting the joint investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government write Secretary of State Pompeo demanding he turn over the documents the committees had requested on Sept. 9.
The letter characterizes Trump’s actions as “seeking to enlist a foreign actor to interfere with an American election,” and says, “if press reports are accurate, such corrupt use of presidential power for the President’s personal political interest – and not for the national interest – is a betrayal of the President’s oath of office and cannot go unchecked.”
The chairmen note the earlier deadline of Sept. 16 to produce the material had passed and give a new deadline of Sept. 26 to notify the committees whether the State Department intends to comply.
September 24, 2019: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the formal opening of an impeachment inquiry.
September 25, 2019: Trump meets with Zelenskyy for the first time, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly opening sessions in New York. The rough transcript of their July 25 call had been released earlier in the day, but both men tried to downplay any idea of pressure on the Ukrainian government to conduct investigations favorable to Trump’s 2020 re-election prospects.
“There was no pressure,” Trump said.
“Nobody pushed me,” Zelenskyy said. Trump went on to say that Ukraine needs to address “corruption” and repeated his argument that European countries need to provide more support. Asked why Giuliani is acting as a go-between with Ukraine, Trump said Giuliani is trying to get to the bottom of the Russia investigation “hoax.”
Trump also urged Zelenskyy to make a “deal” with Russian President Putin to end the war in eastern Ukraine. “I really believe that President Putin would like to do something. I really hope that you and President Putin can get together and can solve this problem. That would be a tremendous achievement, and I know you’re trying to do that.”
The meeting between the presidents had been delayed since the Ukrainians began requesting it in early summer, and still doesn’t equate to an invitation for a formal meeting at the White House that Zelenskyy has sought as an important signal of continued U.S. support for Ukraine’s war against Russia and its battle against corruption.
During joint remarks after their meeting, Zelenskyy indicated Trump had invited him to the White House, “but I think you forgot to tell me the date.” Trump wasn’t forthcoming.
September 27, 2019: The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform committees issue subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to produce documents he had failed to provide two weeks earlier and compelling depositions for five State Department officials over the next two weeks: former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Ambassador Kurt Volker, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.
September 27, 2019: Kurt Volker, the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, resigns. He had been named among those in the State Department facilitating communications between Giuliani and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s office, and was among those subpoenaed by the House committees earlier in the day.
The day before, Sept. 26, Giuliani had tweeted images of text messages that he had exchanged with Volker on July 19 to set up a telephone call between Giuliani and Zelenskyy advisor Yermak.
September 30, 2019: Three House committees issue subpoenas to Giuliani and three associates — Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and Semyon Kislin — demanding records related to efforts to pressure Ukraine to conduct politically motivated investigations, including of Joe Biden. The committees request records starting from Jan. 20, 2017, the day Trump took office, to the present.
October 3, 2019: Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing for Florida, Trump was again asked what he wanted Zelensky to do with regard to the Bidens during their July phone call. Trump responded that he thinks Ukraine and China should both look into business deals involving the former vice president and his son Hunter.
“If they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said. “They should investigate the Bidens. Likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” Trump concluded that if he were Zelensky, he would recommend an investigation because the Bidens are “crooked.”
October 10, 2019: In an indictment unsealed, federal prosecutors in Manhattan alleged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were engaged in political activities in the U.S. on behalf of one or more Ukrainian government officials—including a lobbying campaign, targeted at a Republican congressman, to remove the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv. Trump ordered the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, removed from her post in May. The two men were charged with four counts, including conspiracy, falsification of records and lying to the Federal Election Commission about their political donations, which included a $325,000 donation through a limited liability company to a super PAC formed to support Trump, according to the indictment.
Kolomoisky denies influencing Zelensky directly, instead saying that fortune seems to be smiling on him.
“People come to see me in Israel and say, ‘Congrats! Well done!’ I say, ‘For what? My birthday’s in February’. They say, ‘Who needs a birthday when you’ve got a whole president.’”