Trump’s Call For Investigations Finds New Support Among Russian Allies In Ukraine

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Trump’s Call For Investigations Finds New Support Among Russian Allies In Ukraine

President Donald Trump faces another tough week of public testimony in the impeachment inquiry, his push for investigations in Ukraine has found an unexpected support base: Ukrainian lawmakers. In particular, some of the politicians in Ukraine seen as closest to Russia have taken up the call to investigate Trump’s rivals.

Speaking to TIME last week, three of these politicians — including the co-chairman of Ukraine’s biggest pro-Russian party — echoed the call for the two investigations that Trump has urged Ukraine to open. The first would look into the Ukrainian business dealings of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and the second into whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections to help Hillary Clinton.

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“We really need to get clarity on this,” says Yuri Boyko, the co-chairman of Opposition Platform – For Life, the second biggest party in Ukraine’s parliament and a leading proponent of closer ties between Russia and Ukraine. “It happened before our eyes, when the Ukrainian politicians were trying to interfere and give their assessments of the elections in America,” Boyko told TIME. “This happened. We all saw it.”

These allegations came up repeatedly during the impeachment hearings last week. Representative Devin Nunes, the top Republican involved in the inquiry, raised them during his opening remarks on Wednesday. “The Democrats cooperated in Ukrainian election meddling,” Nunes said. “And they defend Hunter Biden’s securing of a lavishly paid position with a corrupt Ukrainian company, all while his father served as Vice President.”

https://time.com

The following day in Kyiv, some of the same accusations issued from the ranks of Boyko’s party. Their entry into this debate raised particular concern among Ukraine’s leaders, who worry that Putin, through his allies in Kyiv, could achieve several goals at once: divert attention from Russia’s own interference in U.S. elections, weaken the alliance between the U.S. and Ukraine, and bolster Republican attacks against Trump’s political rivals.

“For this pro-Russian party, the first thing is to create a split between the United States and Ukraine,” says Bohdan Yaremenko, a senior lawmaker for the ruling party in Ukraine. “We don’t know if this party is fully incorporated into the Russian foreign policy, or just coordinating with them. But we have no doubt this party is linked to Russia.”

Joining the calls for investigations have been two other members of Boyko’s political party: Oleg Voloshyn, who previously worked in Ukraine’s embassy in Moscow, and Nestor Shufrych, a longstanding defender of Russian interests in Ukraine.

In an interview with TIME on Thursday, Voloshyn echoed the Republican talking point that Clinton received help in 2016 from the Ukrainian government. “It was election interference, pure and simple,” he says. “When the liberal media tell me it’s a conspiracy theory, I say, ‘How do you know?’ There has been no investigation. Without an investigation, how can you say that [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko did not help Hillary? I know that he did.”

Current and former advisers to Poroshenko, who was in power from 2014 until this May, have repeatedly dismissed the allegations as absurd. They also warned that, as Trump seeks re-election in 2020, Russia could seek to use its allies in Ukraine to undermine Trump’s rivals.

“Through its puppets in Ukraine, Russia is doing everything it can to keep the focus on this scandal,” Konstantin Eliseev, who served as the top foreign policy adviser to Poroshenko throughout his tenure as President, told TIME on Friday. “Until November of next year, this issue will dominate relations between the U.S. and Ukraine, and that will play into Russia’s hands,” he adds.

Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, voiced similar concerns during her testimony before the impeachment inquiry on Friday. Ever since U.S. intelligence agencies exposed the Kremlin’s effort in 2016 to help the Trump campaign, President Vladimir Putin has tried to shift blame for election-meddling onto Ukraine. “Classic for an intelligence officer to try to throw off the scent and create an alternative narrative that might get picked up and get some credence,” Yovanovitch said, referring to Putin.

Trump’s Call For Investigations Finds New Support Among Russian Allies In Ukraine

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