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Biden against corruption? Why the stolen money in Ukraine may never return

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Fighting corruption is one of the fundamental principles of democracy. But what if it turns out that the embodiment of this democracy is involved in corruption deals? The election of the 46th President of the United States has shown that everyone has skeletons in the closet.

The newly elected US President Joe Biden has come a long way to the Oval Office. He did not just need to defeat Donald Trump. He had to justify to American voters that might have been aware of international corruption and involved in covering it up.

Burisma was established in Ukraine back in 2002. Consolidation of its assets took place in 2006-2007. And in 2015, it was considered the largest Ukrainian private gas production company.

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It is headed by the former Minister of Ecology of Ukraine, Mykola Zlochevsky, who was deemed to be the richest Minister of the Government under the fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych.

In Ukraine, Zlochevsky is suspected of large-scale corruption. In June 2020, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office exposed three people who offered them $5 million in bribes. This money was to be handed over to the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office. He was expected to close the criminal proceedings on suspicion of the ex-minister, which were transferred in the fall of 2019 by the Prosecutor General's Office to NABU under the investigation which partially concerned Mykola Zlochevsky. This is the largest bribe case in the history of Ukraine.

In 2019, the former Minister of Ecology was also suspected of embezzlement of public funds.

In the same year, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Ruslan Riaboshapka, announced that the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine was reviewing around 15 cases involving Burisma. One of them involved Joe Biden's son, Hunter, who used to be a part of Burisma’s board of directors.

Zlochevsky left Ukraine in 2014 – after the Revolution of Dignity, when the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fleed to Russia.

Also in 2014, Joe Biden's son, Hunter, and former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski joined Burisma's board of directors.

The company’s press release stated that Hunter "will be in charge of the group’s legal department and the company's international promotion." 

At the time, Joe Biden was vice president of the United States and had close contact with Ukraine's newly elected government after the Revolution of Dignity.

Experts believed that it could lead to a conflict of interest: on the one hand, Joe Biden is pressuring Ukraine to eradicate corruption, while his son receives money from a Ukrainian company, which is under criminal investigation in Ukraine.

“The Hill” news site had claimed that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office under Viktor Shokin (who headed the Office from February 2015 to February 2016 – ed.) found that Burisma transferred more than $160,000 each month to Rosemont Seneca Partners, and that the company was related to Hunter Biden. However, the investigation was never completed. In 2016, Viktor Shokin was sacked.

In October 2020, it became known that in relation to a criminal case on the withdrawal of funds from Ukraine, Mykola Zlochevsky interrogated two witnesses, Latvian citizens. One of them claimed that they directly carried out operations to withdraw funds from Ukraine and coordinated their laundering with the help of Wirelogic Technology A.S. and Digitex Organization LLP with subsequent transfers to the aforementioned Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC. According to the witnesses, they noticed that these companies began frequently transferring the same amounts, which led to questions.

In 2020, Ukrainian deputy Andriy Derkach published telephone conversations in which voices were heard resembling the former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the then-US Vice President Joe Biden.

“There is a recording of the conversation, directly between Poroshenko and Biden, where Poroshenko reports to Biden how he fired Shokin. And Biden listens very carefully to this information. In the end, he says, "very good". Poroshenko says that, even though there are no complaints about corruption or work against Shokin, “I followed your instructions … and resolved the issue of the Prosecutor General, received the statement from him,” reveals Derkach in the documentary that was recently presented at the Press Club Brussels Europe by British journalists.

In the documentary, the journalists present the documents that show the transfer of funds to offshore companies that may be related to Hunter Biden. They also say that the cases against Burisma in Ukraine led to the dismissal of top officials after a phone call from the US presidential administration.

Joe Biden himself did not hide that he demanded the dismissal of Shokin in exchange for $1 billion in loan guarantees of assistance to Ukraine: “And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kyiv. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t … They were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah… we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president.’ … I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. … I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.

On May 25, 2021, Viktor Shokin presented his book, “Fictional Stories of Joe Biden's International Corruption in Ukraine, or Who Cannot Be the President of the United States.” In it, Shokin covers his investigations of the Burisma cases as Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the price he had to pay. It is also about the fact that the president-elect of the United States was well aware of what kind of company his son worked in.

Another Ukrainian official that was fired for his interest in the Burisma case is former Deputy Prosecutor General Kostiantyn Kulyk. In the documentary by British journalists, he explains why the company of ex-minister Mykola Zlochevsky, suspected of corruption, needed Hunter Biden: “In 2014, the United States of America imposed financial sanctions against former Ukrainian President Yanukovych and his entourage. All persons on this list tried to find lobbyists in the United States to resolve the issue with their sanctions. This included Kurchenko (a businessman with close ties to Yanukovych – ed.), Zlochevsky and other people. In 2019, when we went to confiscate $6.5 billion, and brought charges against Kurchenko, Zlochevsky, Lozhkin and others from Poroshenko's entourage (the current president at that moment – ed.), the US lobbyists managed to get me fired by holding competitions for compliance with the positions held by people who used to work for Zlochevsky. It is clear how they would assess my suitability for the role.

After the dismissal of Viktor Shokin from the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, close to the then President of Ukraine, was appointed the new Prosecutor General. Later, in an interview with The Hill, Lutsenko made a sensational statement: he was shocked when US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch gave him a list of people who cannot be prosecuted, as such actions could harm the fight against corruption in Ukraine.

Later, in an interview with the Ukrainian newspaper Babel, Lutsenko clarified that the meeting with the Ambassador took place in January 2017. “The meeting was held at the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine, at this table in January 2017. She was not alone, and I was not alone. Ms. Yovanovitch was interested in the case of Vitaliy Kasko (prosecutor at the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine – ed.). Kasko registered his mother in his office apartment, even though she never left Lviv – such actions are considered as abuse of power”, Lutsenko said. According to him, Yovanovitch stated that Kasko is a prominent anti-corruption figure, and “such a criminal case would discredit anti-corruption activists.” “I laid out the details and explained that I could not open and close the proceedings at will. Then, I named several other so-called anti-corruption activists who were on trial. She said it was unacceptable, saying it would undermine trust in anti-corruption activists. I took a sheet of paper, wrote down the names, and said, “Tell me the list of untouchables.” She said, “No, you misunderstood me.” I said, “No, I understood everything. Previously, such lists were written on Bankova, and you present new lists from Tankova (former name of Sikorsky Street, where the US Embassy in Ukraine is located – ed.). The meeting ended. I'm afraid we didn’t leave on good terms,” he said.

Experts agree that US presidential administration’s “telephone law” towards the Ukrainian government could have undermined Petro Poroshenko's rating. That is one of the reasons why in the 2019 elections, he lost the presidential race to actor Volodymyr Zelensky, who stated at the debate that he would become “the judgment for Poroshenko.”

However, the situation with the Burisma case and the possible conflict of interest with the Biden family did not actually change during Zelensky's presidency. Moreover, his appointed Prosecutor General, Ruslan Riaboshapka, closed the case against Biden nearly on the second day after his appointment due to pressure on Ukrainian authorities.

During Petro Poroshenko's tenure, Riaboshapka was the deputy head of the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption in Ukraine. It is one of the state structures, the creation of which was financed with the help of the USA. In turn, the platform on which the declarations of financial statements of Ukrainian officials are currently stored was developed by a company close to the Center for Combating Corruption, headed by Daria Kaleniuk and Vitaliy Shabunin. They do not hide that they carry out their work for grants from the United States and the George Soros foundation.

In April 2021, the son of the current US President, Hunter Biden, presented his own memoirs. In the book, he admits that he spent the money he earned on Burisma’s board of directors on drugs and alcohol.

In the last five years alone, my two-decades-long marriage has dissolved, guns have been put in my face, and at one point I dropped clean off the grid, living in $59-a-night Super 8 motels off I-95 while scaring my family even more than myself,” Biden admits. The memoirs describe the US president's son's repeated rehabilitation attempts, his family's efforts to free him from addictions. He writes that he first drank alcohol at the age of 8 at a party in honor of his father's election.

The story of Burisma and the participation of Hunter Biden in it clearly shows that the current President of the United States knew exactly in which company his son works. Joe Biden is well versed in Ukrainian politics, so he couldn't help but know that Burisma is run by a former Ukrainian minister suspected of corruption.

The story of Burisma and Hunter Biden’s participation in it clearly shows that the current President of the United States knew exactly what kind of company his son works in. Joe Biden is well versed in Ukrainian politics, so he could not help but know that Burisma is run by a former Ukrainian minister suspected of corruption.

In February 2019, former FBI special agent Karen Greenaway, speaking at a hearing of the US Helsinki Commission, which took place in one of the buildings of the US Congress, expressed doubts that Ukraine will be able to return the money stolen by the Yanukovych regime. According to her, if this ever happens, it will not be the nine billion dollars that may have been expected before. And the more time passes, there is less hope of getting them back.

Mykola Zlochevsky became the richest minister during Yanukovych's tenure, so Hunter Biden's work in his company was well-known because he worked with people who stole millions of dollars.

Only time and impartiality of the law enforcement system, both in the United States and Ukraine, will ever unravel this tangle of corruption.

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Belarus

Ukraine aims to build a Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility, challenges the global environment

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With major climate and environmental challenges the world is facing today, a tiny risk that may provoke further damage to the nature (not to mention a global threat) must be calculated with extra dedication to details. And Ukraine is not an exception, writes Olga Malik.

As the country’s new Chernobyl Interim Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility (ISF-2) was granted an operating license earlier in April, Ukraine started the loading of used fuel into the containerized dry storage systems. On July 8, the first part of the spent nuclear fuel was loaded to the ISF-2.

Yet, this poses many questions, even among the country’s authorities, as the experiment might not be as safe as it initially seemed to.

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According to Stanislav Mitrahovich, the leading expert of the National Energy Security Fund, the major operation risk of the ISF-2 is that it is ground-based and the transportation of the nuclear waste will also be operated through the surface transit. Designed by Holtec International, the price of $1,4 Storage project, according to Energoatom, the main operator and investor of the ISF-2, is multiples higher than its real cost. Moreover, due to the limited number of nuclear storage space in Ukraine, the spent fuel to ISF-2 will be transported throughout the country that poses a great ecological threat not only to Ukrainian cities, but to all Europe.

Ironically it may seem, the previous project of the new Chernobyl Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility designed by the French’s Framatom was a big failure, as the Ukraine authorities admit. For instance, the Storage’s bulk had fractures water system flaws. For Holtec International, that redesigned and completed the construction, the ISF-2 is an experiment, as the company has never implemented similar facilities before. Needless to say, that the safety of this “experiment” must be a priority for the global nuclear energy community, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and WANO Biennial General Meeting, for the world will not survive a second Chernobyl disaster.

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Energy

Joint statement of the US and Germany on support for Ukraine, European energy security and climate goals

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The US and Germany have issued a joint statement following German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent visit to Washington to meet bilaterally with US President Joe Biden. The statement addresses the controversial Nordstream 2 project, which has divided opinion in the EU.

"The United States and Germany are steadfast in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and chosen European path. We recommit ourselves today (22 July) to push back against Russian aggression and malign activities in Ukraine and beyond. The United States pledges to support Germany’s and France’s efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine via the Normandy Format. Germany will intensify its efforts within the Normandy Format to facilitate the implementation of the Minsk agreements. The United States and Germany affirm their commitment to tackling the climate crisis and taking decisive action to reduce emissions in the 2020s to keep a 1.5-degree Celsius temperature limit within reach.

"The United States and Germany are united in their determination to hold Russia to account for its aggression and malign activities by imposing costs via sanctions and other tools. We commit to working together via the newly established US-EU High Level Dialogue on Russia, and via bilateral channels, to ensure the United States and the EU remain prepared, including with appropriate tools and mechanisms, to respond together to Russian aggression and malign activities, including Russian efforts to use energy as a weapon. Should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany will take action at the national level and press for effective measures at the European level, including sanctions, to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector, including gas, and/or in other economically relevant sectors. This commitment is designed to ensure that Russia will not misuse any pipeline, including Nord Stream 2, to achieve aggressive political ends by using energy as a weapon.

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"We support the energy security of Ukraine and Central and Eastern Europe, including the key principles enshrined in the EU’s Third Energy Package of diversity and security of supply. Germany underscores that it will abide by both the letter and the spirit of the Third Energy Package with respect to Nord Stream 2 under German jurisdiction to ensure unbundling and third-party access. This includes an assessment of any risks posed by certification of the project operator to the security of energy supply of the EU.

"The United States and Germany are united in their belief that it is in Ukraine’s and Europe’s interest for gas transit via Ukraine to continue beyond 2024. In line with this belief, Germany commits to utilize all available leverage to facilitate an extension of up to 10 years to Ukraine’s gas Transit agreement with Russia, including appointing a special envoy to support those negotiations, to begin as soon as possible and no later than September 1. The United States commits to fully support these efforts.

"The United States and Germany are resolute in their commitment to the fight against climate change and ensuring the success of the Paris Agreement by reducing our own emissions in line with net-zero by 2050 at the latest, encouraging the strengthening of climate ambition of other major economies, and collaborating on the policies and technologies to accelerate the global net-zero transition. That is why we have launched the U.S.-Germany Climate and Energy Partnership. The Partnership will foster U.S.-Germany collaboration on developing actionable roadmaps to reach our ambitious emission reduction targets; coordinating our domestic policies and priorities in sectoral decarbonization initiatives and multilateral fora; mobilizing investment in energy transition; and developing, demonstrating, and scaling critical energy technologies such as renewable energy and storage, hydrogen, energy efficiency, and electric mobility.

"As part of the US-Germany Climate and Energy Partnership, we have decided to establish a pillar to support the energy transitions in emerging economies. This pillar will include a focus on supporting Ukraine and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. These efforts will not only contribute to the fight against climate change but will support European energy security by reducing demand for Russian energy.

"In line with these efforts, Germany commits to establish and administer a Green Fund for Ukraine to support Ukraine’s energy transition, energy efficiency, and energy security. Germany and the United States will endeavor to promote and support investments of at least $1 billion in the Green Fund for Ukraine, including from third parties such as private-sector entities. Germany will provide an initial donation to the fund of at least $175 million and will work toward extending its commitments in the coming budget years. The fund will promote the use of renewable energy; facilitate the development of hydrogen; increase energy efficiency; accelerate the transition from coal; and foster carbon neutrality. The United States plans to support the initiative via technical assistance and policy support consistent with the objectives of the fund, in addition to programs supporting market integration, regulatory reform, and renewables development in Ukraine’s energy sector.

"In addition, Germany will continue to support bilateral energy projects with Ukraine, especially in the field of renewables and energy efficiency, as well as coal transition support, including the appointment of a special envoy with dedicated funding of $70 million. Germany is also ready to launch a Ukraine Resilience Package to support Ukraine’s energy security. This will include efforts to safeguard and increase the capacity for reverse flows of gas to Ukraine, with the aim of shielding Ukraine completely from potential future attempts by Russia to cut gas supplies to the country. It will also include technical assistance for Ukraine’s integration into the European electricity grid, building on and in coordination with the ongoing work by the EU and the U.S. Agency for International Development. In addition, Germany will facilitate Ukraine’s inclusion in Germany’s Cyber Capacity Building Facility, support efforts to reform Ukraine’s energy sector, and assist with identifying options to modernize Ukraine’s gas transmission systems.

"The United States and Germany express their strong support for the Three Seas Initiative and its efforts to strengthen infrastructure connectivity and energy security in Central and Eastern Europe. Germany commits to expand its engagement with the initiative with an eye toward financially supporting projects of the Three Seas Initiative in the fields of regional energy security and renewable energy. In addition, Germany will support projects of common interest in the energy sector via the EU budget, with contributions of up to $1.77 billion in 2021-2027. The United States remains committed to investing in the Three Seas Initiative and continues to encourage concrete investments by members and others."

Robert Pszczel, senior officer for Russia and the Western Balkans, Public Diplomacy Division (PDD), NATO HQ, was not overly impressed with the agreement:

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coronavirus

COVID-19 - Ukraine added to list of countries for non-essential travel

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Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of countries, special administrative regions and other entities and territorial authorities for which travel restrictions should be lifted. In particular, Rwanda and Thailand were removed from the list and Ukraine was added to the list.

As stipulated in the Council recommendation, this list will continue to be reviewed regularly and, as the case may be, updated.

Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, as from 15 July 2021 member states should gradually lift the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries:

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  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bosnia and Hercegovina
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Canada
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • Qatar
  • Republic of Moldova
  • Republic of North Macedonia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Ukraine (new)
  • United States of America
  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity

Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and Macao.

Under the category of entities and territorial authorities that are not recognised as states by at least one member state, travel restrictions for Kosovo and Taiwan should also be gradually lifted.

Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation.

The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted were updated on 20 May 2021. They cover the epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources. Reciprocity should also be taken into account on a case by case basis.

Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) also take part in this recommendation.

Background

On 30 June 2020 the Council adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. This recommendation included an initial list of countries for which member states should start lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders. The list is reviewed regularly and, as the case may be, updated.

On 20 May, the Council adopted an amending recommendation to respond to the ongoing vaccination campaigns by introducing certain waivers for vaccinated persons and easing the criteria to lift restrictions for third countries. At the same time, the amendments take into account the possible risks posed by new variants by setting out an emergency brake mechanism to quickly react to the emergence of a variant of interest or concern in a third country.

The Council recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. The authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation. They may, in full transparency, lift only progressively travel restrictions towards countries listed.

A member state should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.

This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 (1999) and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

Council Recommendation amending Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/912 on the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU and the possible lifting of such restriction

COVID-19: Council updates recommendation on restrictions to travel from third countries (press release, 20 May 2021)

COVID-19: travel into the EU (background information)

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