Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, arrives back from a break in the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump in Longworth Building on Friday, November 15, 2019.
Tom Williams| CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images
Ukraine authorities announced investigations Thursday into whether former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was illegally monitored by private U.S. citizens, as well as the reported hacking of a Ukrainian natural gas company by Russian operatives.
Both probes involve entities that are at the center of President Donald Trump‘s impeachment, which is about to head to trial in the Senate.
The investigation into possible surveillance of Yovanovitch, who was ousted by Trump in May 2019 amid what she called a “smear campaign” orchestrated by the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, came after House Democrats released a trove of new documentary evidence in the impeachment process, the Ukraine Ministry of Internal Affairs said.
Among the documents were messages by a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut named Robert Hyde, who suggested that he was monitoring Yovanovitch in Ukraine.
That evidence was provided to House panels probing Trump by Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani’s who was assisting in efforts to get Ukraine to announce investigations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump himself had asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to “look into” the Bidens in a July 25 phone call that eventually helped launch the impeachment proceedings.
Hunter Biden had served on the board of Ukraine natural gas company Burisma Holdings while his father was vice president. Trump and his allies have accused Joe Biden, who had pushed for Ukraine to fire a prosecutor there, of abusing his office to protect his son or have his family profit off the vice presidency. Those allegations are unsubstantiated and the Bidens have not been credibly accused of wrongdoing.
“Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” the Internal Affairs Ministry said in a statement Thursday morning. “However, the published references cited by the Washington Post contain a possible violation of the law of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of the foreign country.”
“Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state,” the statement said.
Minutes later, the Internal Affairs Ministry released another statement announcing a probe into a recent hack on “several” Ukrainian companies, including Burisma, in which employees’ personal data and executives’ emails were stolen.
“It is noted that the hacker attack is probably committed by the Russian special services,” the Ukraine agency said.
The statement also said that Ukraine’s National Police have reached out to the FBI for help acquiring information, and that they are inviting the FBI to join a joint international investigation team.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates.