Maria Yavanovitch, on August 29, 2016, took over as Ambassador to Ukraine. She had a history serving the U.S. for more than 20 years, and she received numerous awards for anti-corruption.
The Ambassador worked with anti-corruption government groups like NABU (fn #1 national anti-corruption unit . ) and independent groups like the Anticorruption action center (fn #2http://antac.org/ua /en. ). She placed pressure on the President of Ukraine to enforce laws that managed the prosecution of Oligarchs and government officials for corruption.
Maria Yananovitch knew that she was taking on a position in a country that corruption was a way of life. Russian and Ukrainian organized criminals, right-winged Russian military supporters, and intelligence agencies all worked to support crime.
The media, Journalists, and anti-corruption groups faced physical assaults, disinformation, misinformation, violence, and murder while Government agencies and Judicial bodies protected elected officials from prosecution.
A Ukrainian history of murder for anti-corruption activists and Journalists.
Georgiy Gongadze was a leading Journalist and political activist, and the editor of the Ukrainian Pravda wrote a series of articles on the corruption of the Parliament lead by President Leonid Kuchma. In December of 2000, Gongadze disappeared, and months later, a beheaded body was found that was suspected to be Gongadze.( fn#3 ). 16 years later, his body was buried, and his murderers were found to be members of the interior ministry. The suspects in his murder were arrested and convicted. Still, the person who gave the order was suspected to be Leonid Kuchma. The Ukrainian government’s regulations protected Leonid Kuchma, who was no longer President, and he was never charged. (#fn4)
Pavel Sheremet, a Journalist on July 20, was killed by a bomb that was placed in his car overnight. Sheremet was a Journalist and radio host for http://blogs.pravda.com.ua, and he was the target of the Russian government. Pavel Sheremet was writing and speaking about right-winged gangs and members of the Soviet-backed paramilitary team. The suspects of his murder would be charged in 2019 five members of the paramilitary forces. (fn#5) Their reasons for his murder are assumed as a to destabilize the Ukrainian government.
Ambassador Yovanovitch placed flowers on the Sheremet site that his car exploded. She demanded that more was needed then by the administration of President Petro Poroshenko and Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko to protect journalist and anticorruption activist.
Lutsenko was in a constant battle with Ambassador Yovanovitch over corruption in Ukraine and why the speed of cases was so slow or not existent. She discussed with then-President Peto Poroshenko about the handling of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, which Yuriy Lutsenko was the head. (#fn6) The office had a history of helping members parliment in escaping charges for corruption. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project fn#7 occrp.org ) conducted it’s own investigation and found suspects in the Sheremet case that the SPO office of Ukraine failed too.
Kateryna Handziuk, a journalist and a member of the adviser to the mayor of Kherson on July 31, 2018, as she attempted to enter her car, had a liter of Sulfuric acid dumped on her. On November 4, 2018, she died she was involved in the anti-corruption movement and had exposed local corrupt police activity. (fn#8) Before her death, she was able to describe her attackers and the reason for her attack.
Ambassador Maria Yavanovitch honored her family with the award while questioning the threat to journalists and anti-corruption activists. This would be her last action as Ukrainian Ambassador.
President Petro Poroshenko and Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko in 2019 identified 5 suspects (fn#9), but the person who gave the order was never identified, and this prevented the five suspects with being convicted for her murder. The suspects were all parts of the Pro Russian separatist movement. The murder created an outcry from the Ukrainian people, and Ambassador Maria Yavanovitch complained about the handling by Yuriy Lutsenko.
Gazprom (fn#10) is the leading oil and gas company in Russia, and it is controlled by the Russian government. Russian President Vladimir Putin has direct control over the Oligarchs that control the company since 2003.
In 2006 Putin established laws to allow for the sale of natural gas outside Russia and that outside investors no longer had control. In 2007 Gazprom would become the largest company in Russia and was valued at 123 billion dollars (U.S.).
In Ukraine, a company known as Naftogaz (the national gas company of the Ukraine Ukrgazprom), it was an oil and gas company that consumed gas from other European countries, including Russian. The Naftogaz company, in the beginning, took 50% of the natural gas from Ukraine and the remainder from Russia.
The profits that Naftogaz gained were used by the Ukrainian government to pay its debts, and the natural oil production sites fell under the control of Russia.
In 2004 The President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma created the company of RosUkrEnergo; it was developed to connect with Russia and President Putin. (fn#11)
The company RosUkrEnergo would be owned by Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian and a man linked to the Russian mob through Semyon Mogilevich. (fn#12)Mogilevich was on the FBI ten most wanted list and is at last report living in Moscow. He is suspected of having connections in the U.S. and involved in tax fraud, money laundering, and murder for hire.
Dmytro Firtash was able to use this underworld connection and with the help of Russia to profit from Russian gas sold to him at a reduced price but sold it back to Ukraine at an inflated price. The company received an extensive line of credit that allowed for new investments. The Prime Minister of the Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko ordered an investigation into Naftogaz, but this was stopped when she was imprisoned by President Viktor Yanukovych. (fn#13)
Firtash used a large portion of his wealth to support Ukrainian political figures, including Viktor Yanukovych.
Viktor Yanukovych was elected as Ukraine s fourth President in 2010. (fn#14) His election was supported by Russia. His election was deemed corrupt and would lead to anger by Ukrainian people. President Yanukovych, in his election speech, told the Ukrainian people he planned on developing a working plan with Russia on the management of the gas and oil resources.
President Yanukovych continued to create agreements closer to Russia and developed distance with the E.U. and increased the power of government officials and the Oligarchs to evade legal actions and use bribery to obtain control access to Ukrainian companies.
The leader of the revolt was Yulia Tymoshenko. She had played a significant role in the “Orange Revolution.” In 2014 the demand for change grew; the repression of journalists and activists inspired her efforts to increase for changes in the government. As a member of the Ukraine parliament, she was a leader in oil and gas management and fought for reform of the oil and gas debt with Russia.
In 2014 the protest against President Yanukovych grew and would become the Euromaidan(the revolution of dignity). (fn#15)
The Euromaidan revolt of 2014 marked the end of the Ukraine government being lead by President Yanukovych and his pro-Russian supporters. But this did not change the strength of the power of the Oligarchs over corruption. Yulia Tymoshenko and her supports improved the relation to the IMF, E.U., and the U.S.
The oil and gas industry became an issue with President Putin, who was angered that Yanukovych was removed from office, and the Russians threatened to launch new attacks against Ukraine. (fn#16) The U.S sent members of the Senate to show support for the revolt, and the U.S. Ambassador then Geoffrey Pyatt made an offer to help create an interim government.
The Ukrainian government had an emergency election to replace President Yanukovych, who left the country protected by Russian troops. The new President would become Petro Poroshenko in 2014 and Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the Prime Minister. He would promise reform of the corruption and amnesty to the Russian separatist that supported the attacks against protestors. President Poroshenko pronounced himself as a man driven to change the leadership in government.
The battle for change in the Ukraine.
President Poroshenko began this policy to reduce the control of the Oligarchs by raising taxes on them and enforcement of laws regarding tax fraud and bribery. The special prosecutors’ office was provided with Viktor Shokin to lead this new effort to reduce corruption; however, Shokin’s leadership failed to comply with the prosecution of significant corruption cases. Shokin was removed two of the most active prosecutors.
Yegor Firsov and Mykola Tomenko were the Ukraine parliament’s most active anti-corruption fighters; both were removed from office by Shokin. (fn#17)
The pressure on President Poroshenko grew from outside Ukraine the E.U. IMF and SFO ( https://www.sfo.gov.uk/publications/guidance-policy-and-protocols/bribery-act-guidance/ )requested that Shokin be removed due to his failure to address the corruption. The U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt wrote an article on the collapse of the prosecutor’s generals office to reduce crime. (FN#18)
The U.S. Vice President Joe Biden would demand that Shokin be fired, or one billion dollars of aid would not be provided. In Ukraine, the government produced failed cases that Sholkin manged the Burmisa holdings, and the raiding of the AntiAC anti-corruption group contributed to his removal by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2016.
The fall from grace impeachment.
The election in2016 of U.S.President Trump compounded the issues in the Ukraine of corruption with his relationship to Russia and President Putin. President Trump viewed Ukraine as an actor involved in the hacking of the 2016 election and blaming Russia despite all known U.S. intelligence.
organizations had made the determination that only Russia was involved . (F.N. #19 Mueller report. )
On July 25 of 2019, following a call between President Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky regarding 390 million dollars of aid, a “whistleblower” case was opened. (fn#20) Trump requested that an investigation be opened on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter who worked for the Burisma oil and gas company.
Ambassador Yovanovitch was accused of preventing the investigation of the Bidens by maintaining a “do not Prosecute list”. (fn#21) This was never proven, but she was recalled from her position. Her reputation was smeared by cronies of Rudolph Giuliani, who declared that she was blocking his ability to investigate and work with former special Prosecutors.
The group determined to smear Maria Yovanovitch included a former state senator, a Journalist, a reputed Ukraine criminal, and the President of the U.S.
Yavanovitch On October 11, 2019, testified before the U.S. Congress about what lead to her ouster as Ambassador, and this became a part of the Impeachment of President Trump.
Yavanovitch fully described how Rudolph Giuliani and the members of his team sought to smear her while she was Ambassador. She was accused that she attempted to damage the credibility of the President of the U.S.
The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo never supported Maria Yavanovitch or defended her to the President. It would later be revealed that he had full knowledge of Giuliani’s efforts to discredit the Ambassador but never addressed it.
On October 9, 2019, Lev Parnas and Igor Furman were arrested by Federal officers and charged with illegal political campaign funding. (fn#22) Lev Parnas requested to provide the impeachment committee with documents that exposed the plot against the Bidens and why Ambassador Yavanovitch needed to be removed.
During an interview, Parnas admitted that Ambassador Yavanovitch never attacked President Trump. But he revealed how ex-prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko demanded that she be removed before he could develop a plan that showed corruption by the Bidens. Giuliani has discredited the Lev Parnas account, and President Trump continued to claim he did not know Parnas.
Yuriy Lutsenko was removed in the Ukrainian Parliament, and the new President Volodymyr Zelensky refused to reinstate him as a prosecutor.
The wirlpool of a investigation in the U.S.
On January 21, 2020, President Donald Trump became the 3rd President in the history of the U.S. to be impeached. (fn#23) The charges would stem from the holding up of military aid to Ukraine and the misuse of his power as President.
President Trump was impeached; his actions and communication with Ukrainian President were directed to an investigation started on his potential election rival. Former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter are at the heart of the investigation. (fn#24)
Maria Yavanovitch’s career was ended, but her testimony before the U.S. Congress, along with others connected to the charges against President Trump, leading to his impeachment.
The election of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019 is a new beginning for Ukraine. His principle plan to resolve the problems in the country by the development of an anti-corruption court would significantly improve the action by previous President Poroshenko, who always altered the legal actions involving the Ukrainian Parliment. The court is chaired by Elena Tanasevich she will have in 2019 more than 3,000 criminal cases to resolve. (fn#25)
The nation’s history of Oligarchs and oil and gas corruption is still at the heart of its crimes of bribery, extortion ,money laundering and murder that steals from its people and makes security vulnerable to Russia an existing threat.
The Trump administration, following the results of the impeachment, has a dim view on the need for the alliance with Ukraine or supporting the change in its anti-corruption requirements.
However, the impact of Maria Yavanovitch on Ukraine is far-reaching in anti-corruption; she has exposed the extent of corrupt prosecutors. Lutsenko and Sholkin have been purged from the government, the NABU has enacted new regulations to allow for the arrest of corrupt members of the Judicial and Parliament offices.
n 2020 non-government groups like AntAC (https://antac.org.ua/en/ have supported and joined with the NABU in the work of developing anti-money Laundering and wiretapping laws for government officials.
The state-run oil and gas company Naftogaz which had served a significant source of corruption for years is now being managed by Andriy Kobolyen.
His efforts have been to decrease the impact by Gazprom and Russia and remove the power by government officials’ corruption.
Maria Yavanovitch’s legacy has open the eyes of Americans to the struggle of a nation in Ukraine to become the ideal of what America symbolizes. She gave comfort to the victims and survivors of attacks. The question is, does America still embrace justice and its own ideals. And will the U.S. continue to support Ukraine against the threat from Russia and the reform of corruption and the criminal issues of bribery, money laundering, and murder?
14.https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine ,12/11/2013;Richard Balmforth
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