Politics

Yovanovitch Urged Firing of Top Prosecutor Amid Ukraines Presidential Election

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch earlier this year urged the ouster of Ukraines top anti-corruption prosecutor amid a heated national election, raising concerns that the U.S. embassy was meddling in Ukraines internal affairs.

In a speech on March 5, Yovanovitch called for the firing of Ukraines special anti-corruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky. Yovanovitch issued the demand just six weeks prior to Ukraines presidential election.

“To ensure the integrity of anti-corruption institutions, the special anti-corruption prosecutor must be replaced,” Yovanovitch said.

In March 2018, Kholodnytsky was accused of coaching the subjects of criminal investigations. The accusations stemmed from tapes of conversations in Kholodnytskys office recorded using a device planted by the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine. By July 2018, an inquiry into the tapes concluded Kholodnytsky deserved a reprimand but should keep his job.

“Nobody who has been recorded coaching suspects on how to avoid corruption charges can be trusted to prosecute those very same cases,” Yovanovitch said. “Those responsible for corruption should be investigated, prosecuted, and, if guilty, go to jail. And in order for that to happen, all of the elements of the anti-corruption architecture must be in place and must be working effectively.”

Kholodnytsky has argued that he didnt commit wrongdoing, and he remained in his post after the election victory of President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 21. In response to Yovanovitchs comments, Kholodnytsky said it was unacceptable for the ambassador to meddle in Ukraines internal affairs.

“You know, what the ambassador of another state allows herself is on her conscience. Interference in the internal affairs of another state is unacceptable. I will not comment on this statement; I will refrain from commenting for now,” Kholodnytsky told LB.ua at the time.

Yovanovitch testified on Nov. 15 before lawmakers conducting the Democrat-run impeachment inquiry. The impeachment probe is examining allegations that President Donald Trump sought to boost his 2020 reelection prospects by delaying military aid to Ukraine in order to force an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Yovanovitch, who was removed from the Ukraine post in May, said during testimony that she had no firsthand knowledge of the events leading to the impeachment inquiry. On the day prior to her testimony, Ukraines foreign minister said he was never aware of a link between any delay in military aid and the request for investigations.

While Yovanovitch didnt offer any evidence for the allegation that Trump sought Ukraines help in the 2020 election, her appearance served as a reminder that U.S. officials actively meddled in Ukraines internal affairs, even during the politically sensitive period of a presidential election.

Kholodnytsky was appointed on Nov. 30, 2015, by Viktor Shokin, Ukraines prosecutor general. Months later, Shokin was fired due to pressure from Joe Biden, who threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless the Ukrainian president at the time, Petro Poroshenko, removed Shokin.

At the time of his firing, Shokin was investigating Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas giant that paid Hunter Biden tens of thousands of dollars a month to sit on its board of directors. Notably, Shokins prosecutors seized Zlochevskys assets on Feb. 2, 2016, just two weeks before Shokin was forced to resign.

Yovanovitch told lawmakers on Nov. 15 that she first became aware of Hunter Bidens involvement with Burisma in the lead-up to her June 21, 2016, Senate confirmation hearing. She said the Obama–Biden administration included a question about Biden and Burisma in a binder of preparatory questions for the hearing. Yovanovitch said the suggested answer was to refer the matter to the vice presidents office.

Yovanovitchs colleague, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, told lawmakers that he inquired with the vice presidents office about the potential appearance of a conflict of interest regarding Bidens position on the Burisma board, according to a transcript (

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