The Nexus of American Right-Wing and Kremlin Disinformation Exposes Trump-Russia’s Mechanics

(Russian/Русский перевод) How Trump, Putin, Giuliani, the Russian mafia, and the working relationships between their agents and media allies in the Hunter Biden witch-hunt show how the Trump-Russia sausage is made and how the mainstream media foolishly amplifies this disinformation; the just-released “report” on the Bidens and Ukraine from Republicans on two Senate committees, one led by Ron Johnson and the other by Chuck Grassley, is only one of the latest examples of the GOP pushing discredited Russian disinformation in collusion and concert with the Kremlin, disinformation gathered in a wild and shady effort led by Giuliani, then amplified by notoriously non-credible figures in the right-wing media, then amplified further by a myopic mainstream media, efforts detailed below; these operations are not just a microcosm of major aspects of Trump-Russia, but of Putin’s overall war against the West and Western democracy.

By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedIn, Twitter @bfry1981, YouTube, Facebook)  September 26, 2020

Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman
Clockwise:-Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani, Igor Fruman, Donald Trump-TPM Illustration/Getty Images

This is the Epilogue from my eBook published on November 23, 2019.  For the full context in one place, check out that eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here), a detailed look at Trump-Russia and how its Ukraine machinations led to Trump’s impeachment (Sept. 27 update: this eBook also goes into detail on Trump’s long history of scandalous, criminal business dealings, bankruptcies, and financial problems that are of increasing interest since the bombshell report on Trump’s taxes was released on 9/27, and this article of mine offers a less complete version of those misdealings). As far as articles, for more info on Trump’s nefarious, criminal business dealings in Panama and how they connect to pro-Russian Ukrainian political force Viktor Medvedchuk; for specific context on now convicted-by-Mueller’s-team felon Paul Manafort’s work on Ukraine on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stooge Viktor Yanukovych alongside Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, one of the top partners in Ukraine for years of Russian mafia “godfather” Semion Mogilevich, himself a right-hand of Putin; for how Konstantin Kilimnik was a link between Manafort and the Kremlin; for how Andrii Artemenko fits into all this; and how Rudy Giuliani’s longstanding ties with Mogilevich-connected Sam Kislin are also of interest, as is the history of Kislin’s old partner Tamir Sapir in Trumpworld, especially the infamous Felix Sater-brokered Bayrock deals, see my articles How Cohen’s and Manafort’s Ukraine Ties Tell the Deeper Story of Trump-Russia and the Mueller Probe and Think You Know How Deep Trump-Russia Goes? Think Again: This Chart/Info Will Blow Your Mind, which link to some more detailed work of mine on some of these individual subjects (the second article contains information on Trump’s banruptcies and business fiascos relevant to the 9/27 major report on Trump’s taxes).  For more on the inner workings of the Burisma issues in Ukraine involving various Ukrainian prosecutors, including Viktor Shokin and Vitaliy Kasko, and how they do—and do not—relate to the Bidens, see my other piece The Untold Story of the Bidens and Burisma.  You can see all my Trump-Russia coverage here.

The Circus Comes to Ukraine and Blows Everything Up

The Government Accountability Institute should be famous, but it is not.  Founded by none-other than Steve Bannon—former maestro of right-wing-propagandistic site Breitbart, former CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign (something of a replacement for Manafort), former top advisor to President Trump, and current orchestrator of a European pan-national right-wing movement—the Florida group was critical in advancing debunked disinformation on the Clintons during the 2016 election cycle.  Its then-and-current president, Peter Schweizer (also an editor at Breitbart), wrote the notoriously error-riddled Clinton Cash.  One thing he was good at, though, was getting mainstream media—including The New York Times—to feature his work prominently and help to get these false stories mass traction: myth would become reality and some of the main talking points used against Hillary Clinton during the election were first given prominence through Schweizer and his manipulations and continued to be amplified by him and his allies all throughout the election.  It was a concerted, deceitful, coordinated effort from right-wing media using dubious financing that depended on co-opting mainstream media outlets for legitimacy, and it succeeded wildly in its aims of damaging Clinton.  Such tactics actually even mirror Kremlin disinformation campaigns.

Defying belief, Schweizer and his Institute are doing the same thing again—and succeeding—with a newer book, Secret Empires, to target the Bidens with debunked disinformation and even eventually succeeded in 2019 in once again co-opting The New York Times for the same thematic purpose as before, among other outlets. 

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor now acting as Trump’s personal lawyer, picked up on the new Schweizer false narratives late in 2018 and began engaging relevant Ukrainians in person in New York and Ukraine, including ousted former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, to advance them.  He also enlisted one of Shokin’s successors, Yuriy Lutsenko, in January, when Lutsenko made unsubstantiated incriminating claims about Hunter Biden (it was, interestingly, under Lutsenko’s watch that the aforementioned criminal record of Igor Anopolskiy, involved in the Trump Panama fiasco and apparently financially connected to Medvedchuk’s wife, was purged). 

VOA-Giuliani Ukraine gang

Lustenko has a reputation for using his power as a personal political weapon and for being an amateur, and proved it for Giuliani, agreeing to work to reopen inquiries into Burisma and to focus on Hunter Biden, which he did in March even though he had earlier cleared the Bidens.  He was already clashing on corruption issues with then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch—who had pushed him to act more against corruption—and sought ways to discredit her with Giuliani, hoping his actions against the Bidens would earn him favor from Giuliani and Trump when he was not getting along with Yovanovitch.  Lutsenko accused her of giving him a list of certain untouchables, implying the Bidens, but later admitted he lied about this.

Yet the “political hit job” on Yovanovitch was successful: she was recalled from her post in May, in part because of the disinformation fed to Trump by Giuliani, right-wing media, and others as well as the complicity of her boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (it was this silence and inaction on his part that led to the abrupt resignation of Michael McKinley, one of Pompeo’s senior advisors, who has since testified in detail to investigators).  Also, in what could be an example of an earlier inappropriate quid pro quo with the Trump Administration, Lutsenko in early 2018 froze Ukraine’s investigations into Manafort and others related to the Mueller probe right when Trump Administration was deciding whether to provide Ukraine with advanced anti-tank Javelin missiles that could help check Russian armor (Lutsenko was also responsible for allowing Manafort’s colleague Kilimnik to escape to Russia without being asked questions that would have aided Mueller’s investigation).  Lutsenko would later even talk with Giuliani about the unsubstantiated wild conspiracy theory that Manafort was set up by Clinton supporters.  Lutsenko was fired for his misconduct in September, after which he admitted there was no evidence on which to base investigations against the Bidens and is now facing his own criminal investigation for abusing his power.

Another key Ukrainian Giuliani enlisted in this effort, Kostiantyn Kulyk, was Lutsenko’s deputy.  An opportunistic current prosecutor, he is known for corruption, for targeting his political opponents with investigations, and for ties to a Russian intelligence agent who set up a paramilitary unit of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s east to fight the Ukrainian government.  With Lutsenko’s blessing, Kulyuk went all in on Giuliani’s Biden scheme in March, joining in the smearing of U.S. diplomats (including Yovanovitch) and even Democrats by accusing them of covering up for the Bidens, accusations he has not substantiated.  Also unsubstantiated was an apparently fabricated dossier authored by Kulyuk about the Bidens, purporting to describe the corruption of both Joe and Hunter Biden.  Fittingly, Kulyuk will soon be fired, much in the manner of his old boss.

Giuliani even began trying to coordinate strategy with Pompeo, who would be one of the most senior Trump Administration officials to parrot Biden disinformation and conspiracy theories, in essence encouraging a witch huntFox News began getting in on the action, too, and a prominent figure at The Hill, John Solomon, began intensely advancing debunked false narratives through a series of columns in the spring of 2019, even coordinating with Giuliani and interviewing Lutsenko.  They were not only attacking the Bidens though: they, too, began attacking Amb. Yovanovitch, spreading unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine had tried to help Clinton win in 2016 (sure to grab Trump’s attention) and repeated unsubstantiated, self-serving claims from Shokin about Biden.  On April 25th, 2019, the very same day Biden officially began his presidential campaign, Trump himself called into the Fox News show of Sean Hannity—who has been predictably trafficking the Biden smears—and told Hannity he wanted to have his Attorney General, Bill Barr, to look into the Bidens.  The following month, The New York Times would have a major story on the “controversy” involving the Bidens.

As to this problematic May, 2019, New York Times piece: it was co-authored by Kenneth Vogel and Iuliia Mendel; in 2015, Vogel, writing for Politico, seems to have known how to properly characterize information coming from Schweizer, so it is not sure what changed in 2019.  His co-author Mendel was a Ukrainian freelancer at the time and was controversially hired the month after this article was published as the press secretary for freshly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself, raising serious questions about her background, motives, and conflicts of interest.  The article was a major boost, perhaps even a turning point, in the attention given to the Bidens’ activity in Ukraine.  Earlier, just before Trump’s inauguration and during his Politico days, Vogel was also instrumental in advancing the false Kremlin propaganda that Kilimnik had fed Manafort who, in turn, fed it to Trump that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and did so to help Clinton and hurt Trump.

A follow-up piece a week later in May by Vogel for the Times even portrayed Giuliani’s trip to Ukraine as a legitimate fact-finding mission and failed, again, to note the problematic, baseless origins of the claims even though Vogel was familiar with Schweizer.  Just to name one example of the mirror effect, even the BBC had a piece on the Bidens and Ukraine a week-and-a-half after.

It was 2016 all over again, just this time Biden was the target of the coordinated assault, not Hillary Clinton.

A conspiracy of lies had been birthed, raised in an accelerated program, and was now of fighting age, much like a clone trooper from Star Wars.  This clone trooper, like in Star Wars, was not produced randomly but was part of an organized plot pushed by people with nefarious, deceptive interests and operating and funded from the shadows.  And that false narrative of the Bidens is what is existing as reality in the eyes of many millions duped by this concerted right-wing disinformation campaign.  For those who can remember Kerry vs. Bush, this takes what happened with GOP attacks in 2004 on John Kerry—referred to as “swiftboating”—and injects that with steroids, especially in utilizing the official powers of the presidency and Executive Branch in doing so.

Within the context of this fabricated reality, Giuliani engaged in gross antics in Ukraine, to be detailed below in a bit.  Trump himself engaged in pushing this nonsense onto Ukrainian President Zelensky during a July 25th phone call between the two, freezing aid authorized by Congress to Ukraine before the call and verbally pressuring him during it, both as part of a bid to try to force the new Ukrainian president to play along with the alternate-reality Biden fantasy world (and the “Ukraine was behind U.S. election interference” fiction) just to be able to receive aid for his country as it fought Russian aggression.

Trump’s goofy power play almost worked with the desperate Ukrainian president, but pressure from Congress on Trump to release the aid just two days before Zelensky was about to cave in to Trump’s demands in September salvaged propriety.  Even so, Ukraine’s new president still finds himself in an extremely uncomfortable situation with America even as he tries to defuse tensions in his own country.

For many, this moment was a Rubicon that had been crossed.  The actual U.S. government professionals who had spent years running Ukraine policy or enforcing ethical norms—from the State Department to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, from the National Security Council to the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General—were aghast at what was happening.  And, throughout Trump’s own Executive Branch, they revolted (including Yovanovitch and William Taylor, whom Firtash tried to sweet talk all those years ago), many coming out already to testify to Congress about Giuliani’s misdeeds and other details, with Trump and his minions attacking them in response in ways that amount to clear witness tampering.  And it is that revolt that has been dominating headlines lately, fueling the impeachment inquiry, and increasing support for impeachment like never before in Trump’s presidency.

Some of what has been happening on the ground in Ukraine involves some important details that may have been reported but have not received nearly as much attention as they deserve, nor been made top stories from top outlets, as they should be.  But these details are explosive in the context of everything outlined in this book and bring disparate elements of this narrative together, so are therefore discussed below.

Rather incredibly, Dmitry Firtash is trying to align his defense with claims made by Trump and Giuliani.  Yet, when one realizes that Firtash switched up his defense team in July to include Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova—a conservative married couple who are prominent media defenders of Trump (often passionately so on Fox News) and who work closely with Giuliani as business partners—this is hardly surprising.  The duo met with Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, also in July, to ask him to end the U.S. effort to extradite Firtash and present a case against the charges levied against their client, but Barr chose not to become involved.  It is worth nothing here that Brady Toensing, the son of Victoria Toensing and stepson of diGenova, began working for Barr’s Department Justice as a senior counsel for the Office of Legal Policy the month before his parents started working for Firtash.  Indications are he will recuse himself from at least some areas from which he should recuse himself, but the potential for conflict of interest here should not be forgotten.

Strangely, none other than the Ukrainian prosecutor ousted by pressure from Joe Biden and others pushing Ukraine on corruption, Viktor Shokin, submitted an affidavit on Firtash’s behalf to his legal team, claiming that Biden had had him fired to protect Hunter Biden and had pressured Ukraine’s government not to allow Firtash back into Ukraine in order to limit Firtash’s political influence (this second point is quite believable since Biden was working against corruption in Ukraine).  The idea was to discredit Biden, and Giuliani has made this affidavit a major pillar of his Biden attacks.

Here is where Soviet-born Americans Lev Parnas (from Ukraine) and Igor Fruman (from Belarus), two partners of Giuliani’s working for him to dig up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine, enter quite interestingly into our story.

After their dramatic arrest early last month at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC, trying to use one-way tickets to get out of the U.S. and travel to Vienna, Austria, they were front-page and round-the-clock TV material for a while.  They were charged by federal prosecutors from SDNY for breaking campaign finance law to feed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican groups and candidates including a pro-Trump super PAC.  Their indictment mentions that they were funneling money into these campaigns from an unspecified Russian to help gain leverage with certain state and national politicians regarding a recreational marijuana “future business venture” in Nevada and other states.  The indictment also notes that Parnas met with a congressman (former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas, who had lost to a Democrat in 2018 and is hoping to mount a comeback) to whom money from the scheme had been donated to try to get him to work towards the removal of then-Amb. Yovanovitch from her post, and that this was done at the request of at least one Ukrainian government official.  Sessions would join this effort, and now he has had to respond to federal grand jury subpoenas.

The whole investigation into Parnas and Fruman is part of an ongoing investigation, as Parnas and Fruman were arrested as a matter of necessity because they were leaving the country, not because prosecutors preferred that time for the arrest.  That piece of information and the keeping of several individuals’ identities in the indictment secret indicates that the SDNY prosecutors are holding their cards close to their chest and that more charges can be expected.  And it would hardly be surprising if the unnamed Ukrainian government official(s) were Lutsenko and/or Kulyuk and that this investigation into Parnas and Fruman were actually part the SDNY investigation into Giuliani’s finances and activities in Ukraine and his overall activities involving Parnas and Fruman (incredibly ironic since Giuliani made a name for himself as the SDNY U.S. Attorney), given what will be outlined below.

As part of their efforts in Ukraine as directed by Giuliani (who, it seems more and more, was in turn directed by Trump), Parnas and Fruman connected Giuliani with Shokin late in 2018.  We also just learned that, according to Parnas’ current lawyer (who claims his client has text messages and other documentation backing this up), at or near the same time, Shokin met in Vienna with, of all people, egregious Trump apologist and disinformation-and-conspiracy-theory all-star Devin Nunes, the disgraced leader of the Republican side on the House Intelligence Committee, which has been the recent front line in the impeachment fight (some of his most controversial efforts involved baselessly attacking the legitimate FISA surveillance of Carter Page).  Nunes was seeking to combine his efforts to dig up “information” on the Bidens with Giuliani’s intrigues, along with efforts to boost a discredited, baseless conspiracy theory pushed by the Kremlin that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the 2016 U.S. election meddling.   Nunes also met with Parnas around this time and directed his staffer, Derek Harvey, to coordinate efforts with Parnas, and they met repeatedly after.  Such meetings were confirmed by Solomon, whose “reporting” was a basis for some of Nunes’s lines of inquiry.  Nunes engaged and directed this activity after the 2018 midterm elections—in which Democrats took the House back from Republicans—but before the new Congress was seated specifically in order to avoid having to reveal details about his trips and meetings to the incoming Democratic leadership.   It is obviously extremely problematic that, in the public impeachment hearings exploring all of this, the highest-ranking Republican present during and helping to lead these public hearings has not disclosed that he was involved in the very efforts that are currently under the impeachment microscope.  It should be noted that, concurrent with Nunes in recent days spewing these lies about Ukraine on the record at these hearings, Putin himself exclaimed “Thank God, no one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

We also know that in January of 2019, Giuliani asked the State Department to grant Shokin a U.S. visa: State said no, so then Giuliani asked the White House, and an official there also said no after discussing with State.  Giuliani also met Lutsenko with both Parnas and Fruman that same January in a meeting arranged by the pair, who engaged frequently with the then-prosecutor.  In February, the pair tried pressuring Poroshenko in person along with Lutsenko to announce an investigation into the Bidens, just months before Poroshenko lost to Zelensky.  They offered a formal state visit to Washington for Poroshenko in return—something he was actively seeking—and present at this meeting was Lutsenko.  Such a state visit in Washington could have bolstered Poroshenko’s support at home just before an election, but it never came and Poroshenko was crushed by Zelensky just two months later in April (voters had tired of Poroshenko, hamstrung as he was by competing interests and falling short of what he had promised).  In March, Parnas was the guy who orchestrated Lutsenko’s interview with The Hill conducted by Solomon in which Lutsenko disseminated lies he later retracted.  Parnas’s intro to Solomon, in turn, was facilitated by Rep. Pete Sessions, and Parnas and Solomon continued to coordinate after the Lutsenko interview.  Adding to the idea of a coordinated campaign, Solomon is represented legally by Toensing and diGenova; clearly, Solomon’s role is far beyond that of a just a writer.

Just days before Zelensky’s inauguration in May, Parnas and Fruman had a meeting with Serhiy Shefir, a member of Zelensky’s “inner circle;” according to Parnas’s lawyer, in that meeting Parnas laid out a list of demands: the Zelensky Administration must announce an investigation into the Bidens or both Vice President Mike Pence would not attend Zelensky’s inauguration and the U.S. would freeze aid for Ukraine, and these demands were made by Parnas on orders from Giuliani. 

In the end, Trump ordered Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration, a clear a sign of retaliation for non-compliance with these demands.

Fruman and Giuliani deny the above account, at least so far; Fruman is represented by one of Trump’s former White House lawyers, John Dowd, who represented Trump as his top lawyer during the Mueller probe but ultimately resigned over Trump ignoring his advice and what he viewed as Trump’s risky approach to the whole situation.  With this current situation, Dowd tried to get Parnas to claim executive privilege to not have to answer questions, but that clearly did not happen.  Fruman’s other main lawyer is Todd Blanche, who also represents Manafort.

Sherfir, now President Zelensky’s top advisor, confirmed the May meeting but rather coyly said military aid, specifically, was not discussed (giving him a lot of wiggle room), but this statement, like Zelensky’s affirmation that no one pressured him, must be seen in the context of the extraordinary situation in which the Zelensky Administration finds itself.  Obviously, Zelensky is trying as hard as he can to appease and not to alienate Trump and must walk a delicate line with all his public statements relating to America since the brand new politician has been sucked into impeachment proceedings in an election year, so you can expect him to try not to say things to make either Trump and Republicans on the one hand or Democrats on the other hand think he is helping the other side, at least up to the point Trump looks as if he really will withhold aid or do something worse, as has kind of been happening already.  And all this happens while the young Ukrainian leader faces immense overall challenges in Ukraine.

Parnas and Fruman specifically clearly helped facilitate meetings designed to pressure, and to get Giuliani access to, Zelensky and others close to him (and Poroshenko before him) and were therefore very much a part of setting in motion the July phone call between Trump and Zelensky, with the May disputed meeting only the most emphatic example of the duo’s pressure.

And yet, ties get even more incestuous as far as our threads are concerned.  What received less attention was that one of the two associates of Giuliani, Lev Parnas, was working as a translator for Firtash’s legal team, but both Parnas and Fruman had worked for Firtash before “in an unspecified capacity.”  Toensing, diGenova, and Parnas were trying together to dig up dirt on Democrats with ties to Ukraine, involved Solomon in these coordinated efforts, and Parnas has even tried to portray Firtash as a victim.  Federal prosecutors working on Firtash’s case on Chicago for which the U.S. is supposed to extradite him reached out to their counterparts in New York about the relationship of Firtash with Parnas and Fruman.  The Chicago prosecutors had been investigating their ties to Firtash for some time and when the pair was arrested, they were heading to Vienna; Giuliani was supposed to fly there the following day, but canceled after the arrest.  The trips were to coordinate a meeting with Shokin to prep him for an interview he would do with Sean Hannity from Vienna.  But they could also easily have been trying to engage Firtash.  Either way, it is clear that the two camps of Firtash/pro-Russian Ukrainians and Team Giuliani/Trump were now coordinating, uniting on messaging and strategy.  Giuliani has even admitted to personally looking into Firtash as a resource, and clearly, Russian media along with America’s right-wing media are all too happy to further these narratives and provide assists. 

Firtash’s right-wing lawyers see any way to discredit Biden as corrupt and as going after both Shokin and Firtash for personal political reasons as the best way to help their client other than getting charges dropped.  Firtash even paid diGenova and Toensing $1 million to find incriminating information on Biden.  In this context, if Shokin (rewriting history, Trump is now saying that Shokin was “very good” and that it was “unfair” to fire him) and Firtash are remade into the good guys, then Biden must the bad guy and Trump benefits.

Reforms Biden pushed for intensely on corruption and for the gas sector may have cost Firtash up to $400 million a year, and he feels a rage towards Biden, calling him an “overlord” who wielded inappropriate and “enormous” influence on the Ukrainian government after Yanukovych’s ouster.  Lacking self-awareness, Firtash and his team seem not to have considered that such assertions, if anything, are a vindication of Biden’s efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine.  But maybe they are instead playing to an audience of one, hoping like so many others that winning over Trump is enough and will result in interference on his part that might save Firtash from extradition.  It seems Biden is to Firtash what Hillary Clinton was to Putin: his main American enemy, at least in his mind. 

Parnas and Fruman were also concurrently trying to pursue a change at the top of Naftogaz along with replacing Yovanovitch, with both moves designed to help them personally sell gas to Naftogaz and to benefit Firtash.  They worked with and received funding from Firtash towards this effort, advocating for the wiping out of the exiled gas tycoon’s debts with Naftogaz.  The current CEO of Naftogaz, Andriy Kobolev, is seen by Ukrainians and Westerners as a star of Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts and had been tough on Firtash, accusing Firtash of illegally keeping some $2 billion since 2017 by not making required payments to Ukrainian state-owned companies.  Since Yovanovitch was supporting Kobolev, Parnas and Fruman thought getting rid of her would help them deal with Kobolev more easily.

Despite Parnas and Fruman being photographed repeatedly with Trump and working closely with Giuliani on behalf of Trump, Trump denies knowing either of them.  This has apparently hurt the feelings of Parnas, who now seems to be cooperating with investigators.

A third associate of Giuliani’s we should well remember: Ukrainian-born Sam Kislin, whom U.S. authorities believe is an important figure in the Mogilevich Russian mafia outfit and who did business with Trump both with Tamir Sapir—strongly linked to Sater’s Bayrock—and by selling a Trump condo to a future member of Ukraine’s Party of Regions.  Kislin also supported Giuliani politically by raising several million in fundraising for him and served on important New York City bodies at the behest of Giuliani while he was mayor.  Giuliani had denied in 1999 knowing that the U.S. government considered Kislin a serious Russian mafia member or associate, but that claim is impossible for him to maintain in recent years, when he engaged Kislin to help in these Ukraine shenanigans. 

See, Kislin, too, is neck-deep in the current Ukraine drama.  In January 2018, Kislin tried to push then Amb. Yovanovitch to assist in helping to release millions in funds in a Cyprus shell company of which he was the current owner.  That company held part of some $1.5 billion Yanukovych had criminally looted from Ukraine.  His effort to unfreeze the funds had, strangely, earlier been blocked by Lutsenko, of whom Kislin alleged improper conduct.  This mirrors a similar effort from another Ukrainian oligarch with another Cyprus-based shell company holding some of Yanukovych’s ill-gotten fortune, an oligarch named Pavel Fuks (or Fuchs) who was also tied to Giuliani and one of several attempts to make a Trump Tower happen in Moscow.  Fuks, who was introduced to Trump by Tamir Sapir, was also more recently involved in helping Giuliani go after the Bidens.  The shell companies owned by Kislin and Fuks held $20 million and $160 million, respectively, primarily in government bonds Ukrainian authorities now say were issued illegally by Yanukovych’s government.  Kislin had purchased his company, Opalcore Limited, in November, 2016, the very month Donald Trump was elected president.  In what seems to be a shady scheme to take money that belongs to the Ukrainian people, Kislin claims he did not know that the assets were frozen when he bought Opalcoare and alleged procedural malpractice by Ukrainian government officials during the freezing process, hoping that claim would lead to them being unfrozen and requesting Yovanovitch get involved to this end.

But Kislin is also currently advising Giuliani on Ukraine, is meeting with Ukrainian government officials, and seems to even have been an informal emissary for Trump there on the Biden smear campaign while also agitating against Poroshenko as the former president, too, is under investigation there.  Kislin is now apparently also “good friends” with Andrii Artemenko (to quote Artemekno himself), with the two coordinating and exchanging information on some of these efforts.  Somehow, Artemenko is now living in Washington, DC, and is a regular guest on Kremlin-run television, offering negative takes on Ukraine’s current leaders and now also pushing for a probe into Hunter Biden.  It was reported in October that Kislin was in communication with the House investigators, who are interested in his Ukraine activity in relation to Giuliani’s efforts.

Amid all of this context of clear, overt political pressure on Ukraine from the Trump Administration, in the middle of October, Ukraine’s new prosecutor general announced that he was auditing one previous case concerning Burisma’s owner, Zlochevsky, and that Hunter Biden could be fair game even though neither Burisma nor Hunter were specific points of focus, noting that this audit was a part of a general audit of fifteen high-profile cases handled by the previous administration.  The shady General Prosecutor’s Office is in the midst of a massive overhaul the Zelensky Administration hopes will fix the corruption that made it untrustworthy in the eyes of Ukrainians and Westerners alike, taking away its investigative powers and shifting them to other departments.  Kasko has been restored and promoted to the number-two spot in the office, and the new top prosecutor, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, has a history of working for transparency.  Different departments are expected to take up several cases involving Manafort, but there is worry that much of the information on them and other cases will be lost in the transition.  Perhaps this is in part a shrewd move to stall any findings during a turbulent time in American politics that Ukraine’s new president fears could provoke serious retaliation from Trump should either bad things come out about Manafort or the Burisma probe yields no dirt, likely outcomes given what is known that could leave the country exposed to the rage of President Trump.

In the interest of full disclosure, Brian interned for Joe Biden from September-December, 2006.

This article is an excerpt from Brian’s eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here). Also be sure to check out Brian’s new podcast!

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