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Ukraine Announces Probe Into Possible Surveillance of Ex-US Ambassador


FILE - Then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, sits during a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 6, 2019.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry has opened two criminal investigations into possible surveillance of former U.S. ambassador to Kyiv Marie Yovanovitch.

Details are still coming in.

The news comes as an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's person lawyer said the president was aware of a campaign to pressure the Ukrainian government to carry out investigations that would help Trump politically.

Trump "knew exactly what was going on," Lev Parnas told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview broadcast Wednesday night.

The New York Times quoted Parnas as saying, "I am betting my whole life that Trump knew exactly everything that was going on that Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine."

FILE - Lev Parnas, associate of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, exits after a bail hearing at the Manhattan Federal Court in New York, Dec. 17, 2019.
FILE - Lev Parnas, associate of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, exits after a bail hearing at the Manhattan Federal Court in New York, Dec. 17, 2019.

Previously, Trump has denied sending Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to Ukraine to look for dirt on Joe Biden, the former vice president and a rival in the 2020 presidential election.

But Parnas told Maddow that Trump "was aware of all my movements."

"I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president," Parnas said. "I was on the ground doing their work."

Parnas said his function in working with Giuliani was to meet with senior Ukrainian officials in a search for evidence of corruption by the elder Biden and Hunter Biden's work for Burisma. Trump temporarily withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until Zelenskiy committed to investigating the Bidens, but eventually released the assistance Kyiv wanted without Zelenskiy opening the Biden probes.

GAO report

On Thursday, a congressional watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, concluded that Trump violated federal law by withholding the assistance Kyiv wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.“

Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO said. The watchdog agency said U.S. budget officials “withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

In a tweet later Wednesday night, Katherine Faulders, White House and Capitol Hill reporter for ABC News, said she asked Giuliani if he had any comment on the interview with Parnas. He texted, "None he's a very sad situation."

In the loop

"I mean they have no reason to speak to me," Parnas told Maddow. "Why would President Zelenskiy's inner circle or (Interior Minister Arsen) Avakov or all these people or (former) President (Petro) Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that's the secret they're trying to keep."

He added that Trump's interest in Ukraine was never about rooting out government corruption but was "all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden."

When Maddow asked Parnas about Trump's claim that he does not know him, Parnas said, "He lied," adding that he was with Giuliani four or five days a week in Ukraine during which Trump was in constant contact with Giuliani.

Parnas said he wants "to get the truth out ... it's important for our country, it's important for me ... a lot of things are being said that are not accurate."

Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, have been indicted on charges of making illegal contributions to the Trump campaign. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Some reporting for this story came from RFE/RL.