The Interior Ministry of Ukraine tells VOA that a special task force involving U.S. and Ukrainian officials will be launched Monday to look into reports that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine had been subjected to surveillance and threats in Ukraine.
After meeting Friday with U.S. diplomats, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in statement to VOA that "Our goal is for the investigation to determine whether the published messages and conversations are fakes and boastings in informal talks, or Ukrainian and international law was violated, in which case the law enforcement will react."
Ukraine says Avakov invited the U.S. to participate based on a cooperation agreement between Ukraine's Interior Ministry and the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was unaware that former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had been under surveillance in Ukraine. He said he was obligated to investigate the accusation but asserted it eventually would be proven untrue.
Pompeo’s remarks were made during interviews with two conservative radio hosts, his first since the allegations surfaced late Tuesday.
The information also suggested that Yovanovitch might have been threatened shortly before Trump removed her in May.
“To the best of my recollection, I had never heard of this at all,” Pompeo told radio show host Hugh Hewitt.
Pompeo broke his silence after legislators and diplomats harshly criticized him for not addressing the allegations.
“We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there,” Pompeo said in an interview with broadcaster Tony Katz. “I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate.”
The allegations are central to the Senate impeachment trial against Trump, who has been charged by the Democratic-led House of Representatives with abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s possible Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election, and Biden's son Hunter.
The allegations about the surveillance and threats to Yovanovitch are based on documents released by Democrats that were provided by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Pompeo said Friday that he had never met or communicated with Parnas.
During Trump’s alleged pressure campaign, Yovanovitch was reportedly seen as an obstacle to an investigation of the Bidens.
She returned to Washington after receiving a late-night phone call from the director general of the Foreign Service, telling her to leave Ukraine immediately to ensure her safety.
Trump repeatedly has said he is innocent of the charges and has described the impeachment probe as a “hoax.”