By Jack Phillips
Set in the backdrop of the House impeachment inquiry, Ukrainian officials have said they would deepen its investigation into the founder of Burisma Holdings to include the embezzlement of state funds.
Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka said in an announcement Wednesday that Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky is suspected in the “theft of government funds on an especially large scale,” but did not provide more details, Reuters reported.
Allegations of corruption at Bursima are at the center of the House-led impeachment inquiry. Democrats have accused President Donald Trump of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of Burisma until earlier this year. Trump, Ukrainian officials, and other White House officials have denied allegations of quid pro quo or bribery.
According to reports, Zlochevsky’s whereabouts are unknown to Ukrainian authorities. That means that investigation is effectively on hold, Ryaboshapka told reporters.
Ryaboshapka made no mention of the Bidens.
However, three Ukrainian lawmakers unveiled a document Wednesday showing Zlochevsky was suspected of using his position as Ukraine’s minister of ecology and natural resources to embezzle more than $30 million, the news agency reported. He was the minister of ecology from 2010 until 2012.
“Currently we are reviewing the criminal cases that have been previously pursued by the Prosecutor General’s Office,” Ryaboshapka had previously stated in October, reported the Kyiv Post. “The sphere you’re talking about features Zlochevsky, (tycoon Serhiy) Kurchenko and other people and companies—there are about 15 such cases.”
Ryaboshapka noted that the prosecutor’s office is “reviewing all cases that were closed or split or were under investigation in order to make decisions in cases when there were violations of procedure.”
Meanwhile, about a week ago, Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko said that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland “never” linked aid to Ukrainian investigations into the 2016 elections or Biden.
“Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him,” Prystaiko said about Sondland, reported Reuters on Nov. 14.
“I have never seen a direct relationship between investigations and security assistance,” Prystaiko also remarked. “Yes, the investigations were mentioned, you know, in the conversation of the presidents. But there was no clear connection between these events.”
Zelensky also denied that Trump tried to pressure him during the July 25 phone call. He also denied any blackmail attempts.
“There was no blackmail,” Zelensky told reporters last month in Kyiv. “It wasn’t a subject of our talk.”
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