Ukraine launches probe into alleged surveillance of former U.S. envoy

The Interior Ministry is also investigating the reported hacking of Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment case.
Image: Marie Yovanovitch
Marie Yovanovitch Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

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By Yuliya Talmazan and Oksana Parafeniuk

Ukraine has launched criminal investigations into the possible illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and the reported hacking of Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment.

"Ukraine's position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America," the Interior Ministry, which runs the police forces, said in a statement.

However, recent reports pointed to the possible violation of Ukrainian and international law, it said.

"Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state," the statement added.

Earlier this week, records released by House Democrats appeared to show that before she was ousted by the Trump administration last spring, Yovanovitch was being closely monitored.

Among the trove of documents obtained from Lev Parnas, a close associate of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, text messages show that a Trump donor named Robert F. Hyde disparaged Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and cellphone use.

“Our goal is to investigate whether there actually was a violation of Ukrainian and international law, which could be the subject for proper reaction. Or whether it is just bravado and fake information in the informal conversation between two U.S. citizens,” the ministry said.

The ambassador's ouster, ordered by Trump, was at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Yovanovitch testified in the House impeachment hearings that she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

The ministry also said it had requested the FBI provide relevant materials.

And in a report released Monday, security experts said Burisma Holdings was hacked by Russian spies.

Cybersecurity firm Area 1 Security said Russia’s military intelligence service, GRU, "launched a phishing campaign targeting Burisma Holdings" as early as November.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said the alleged perpetrators were “being identified."

Burisma employed Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, as a board member in May 2014. He stopped working with the company in 2019.

Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma has been the subject of intense scrutiny and speculation by Republicans. Biden admitted in October that his last name was most likely the reason he was offered a seat on the board.

Trump was impeached in part because he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a phone call in July to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden,and appeared to raise allegations that the former vice president had stymied prosecution of the company.

Ukrainian officials said they had also approached the FBI and the company that detected signs of the hacking attack to assist in the investigation.