Trump impeachment: Ukraine launches investigation into ‘spying’ on former ambassador by US president’s associates

Kiev officials say they cannot ignore possibility crime was committed on Ukrainian soil after new release of messages

Oliver Carroll
Thursday 16 January 2020 13:32 GMT
Ukraine opens ambassador surveillance probe

Ukraine has opened two criminal cases over possible surveillance of former US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

Ms Yovanovitch, who testified in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, has called for an investigation into whether she was spied on before she was ousted by the president.

Newly released electronic messages between Robert Hyde, an obscure Republican candidate and Trump donor, and Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, appear to show the former boasting about tracking the ex-ambassador.

Denis Lenets, a spokesman for Ukraine’s interior ministry said Kiev had “no intention” of interfering in US domestic affairs, but could not ignore the possibility that a crime was committed on Ukrainian soil.

“The House Intelligence Committee published information alleging Marie Yovanovitch was illegally monitored during her time as US ambassador,” he said. ”Her electronic gadgets may also also have been interfered with by private individuals working under the direction of US citizens.”

The documents show Mr Hyde referring to Ms Yovanovitch as “that b****” and appearing to discuss how to remove her from her position.

“If you want her out, they need to make contact with security forces,” the congressional candidate told Mr Parnas.

In a statement published on its site, the interior ministry said it would be looking into whether a crime had taken place.

“If so, there will be a corresponding reaction,” the statement read. “Or it [will be concluded] that this was simply bravado ... in an informal conversation between two US citizens.”

Ms Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, served as US ambassador to Ukraine before she was removed from her post in mid-June. In Kiev, she had forged a reputation supporting reforms and anti-corruption efforts. Her active diplomacy made her the enemy of shadowy figures in the Ukrainian and US elite.

Marie Yovanovitch receives standing ovation after Donald Trump attacks her amid impeachment testimony

The diplomat subsequently became one of the key witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, which focussed on the apparent decision by the US president to withhold military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to force it to investigate Democratic candidate and potential presidential rival Joe Biden.

Mr Trump explicitly criticised the former ambassador in the now-famous July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, describing her as “the woman” and “bad news”.

“It was a terrible moment,” she recalled while giving evidence to the impeachment committee in November. “A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said that the colour drained from my face.”

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