A leaked series of alleged phone calls from 2016 indicate former Vice President Joe Biden linked the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was probing a company with ties to his son, to more than $1 billion dollars in U.S. loan guarantees.
Andrii Derkach, an independent member of the Ukrainian parliament, at a press conference in Kyiv on Tuesday, publicly released previously undisclosed recordings of phone conversations that allegedly took place between Joe Biden and ex-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
The calls, which have been heavily edited by an unknown source, allegedly took place in early 2016 while then-Vice President Joe Biden was serving as the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Biden has acknowledged that he tied the removal of Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, to the U.S. government guaranteeing more than one billion in loans from International Monetary Fund for the country.
At the time, Shokin’s office was overseeing an investigation into Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas conglomerate on whose board of directors Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, sat.
Although the investigation was not directed at the younger Biden, his position with Burisma had drawn the attention of ethics watchdogs in both the United States and Europe. Of particular concern was the reason behind Hunter Biden’s appointment to the post, which paid as much as $83,000-per-month, given that he had little history in either the energy industry or Ukraine.
As such, Shokin’s ouster has been a controversial topic both at home and abroad. Most notably, when President Donald Trump was impeached by Congress last year for suggesting Ukraine probe Biden’s role in the matter.
When the recordings first emerged on Tuesday, the Biden campaign seemed to acknowledge their authenticity, while downplaying their significance, telling The Washington Post they were a “nothingburger.”
In the calls, Biden does not mention either Burisma or his son, but the recordings help add context to the overall picture.
The first mention of Shokin within the leaked recordings is during an alleged December 2015 call with Poroshenko and then-Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Before Vice President Biden comes in, I just wanted to try to urge you to see if there is a way to get by this problem of replacing the prosecutor general, you know, Shokin,” Kerry says during the call, adding that Obama administration’s perception was that Shokin had blocked attempts to clean up corruption. “I know the vice president is very concerned about it and I think it would be good to try to have some resolution of that before the vice president comes, if it’s possible.”
In a later alleged call, this time with Biden himself in February 2016, Poroshenko informed the vice president that he had successfully sought Shokin’s resignation.
“Yesterday, I met with the general prosecutor, Shokin, and despite the fact that we didn’t have any corruption charges, we don’t have any information about him doing something wrong … I specially asked him to resign,” the Ukrainian president said.
Poroshenko went on in that call to state that even though Shokin had support within the Ukrainian parliament, he had agreed to leave his post. “And one hour ago he [brought] me his resignation… this is my second step for keeping my promises,” the Ukrainian president said.
“Great,” Biden said in response to the news, according to audio from the conversation.
In another alleged call, dated March 2016, Biden asserted that the U.S. would be ready to release slightly over a billion dollars in loan guarantees to Ukraine upon the appointment of Shokin’s successor.
“Assuming there is a new government and a new prosecutor general, I am prepared to do a public signing of the commitment for the billion dollars,” the former vice president said at the time.
Biden further elaborated that he “was not suggesting that’s what [Poroshenko] wants or doesn’t want, I am just suggesting that that’s what we’re prepared to do.”
In the days following that conversation, Shokin was publicly fired from his position as prosecutor general. The calls indicate that Poroshenko sought Biden’s approval on the appointment of Shokin’s eventual successor, Yuri Lutsenko.
One day after Lutsenko was installed in his position, Biden congratulated Poroshenko on the decision and noted that the aid would be forthcoming.
“I’m a man of my word, and now that a new prosecutor general is in place, we’re ready to move forward and sign that one billion dollar loan guarantee,” Biden told Poroshenko in mid-May 2016.
The former vice president added that it would be “critical” for Lutsenko “to work quickly to repair the damage that Shokin” had done.
Lutsenko, who is now being investigated for public corruption, would go on to close the probe into Burisma. In October 2019, the Ukrainian government opened a review of Lutsenko’s decision. Earlier this year, a Ukrainian court expanded that probe by ordering an investigation into Biden’s role in Shokin’s ouster.
Derkach, who has ties to Russia and had previously met with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to discuss Burisma and the Bidens, claims the calls show Poroshenko was subject to “external control.” The Ukrainian lawmaker also argues the calls prove the former vice president and his son are guilty of public corruption.
As Breitbart News has previously reported, Hunter Biden’s appointment to Burisma’s board of directors in 2014 raised questions over conflicts of interest, especially as Joe Biden had just been made responsible for overseeing Obama administration policy toward Ukraine.
Adding to concerns was that Hunter Biden joined the company at a time when it was actively courting western leaders to prevent scrutiny of its practices. The same month as the appointment, Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, had his assets frozen in the United Kingdom on suspicion of money laundering.
A Ukrainian official with ties to Zlochevsky admitted in October of last year that the only reason Hunter Biden secured his post with Burisma was to “protect” the company from foreign scrutiny.
It is in this context that Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles and Biden’s political influence over Ukraine’s decision to fire Shokin have raised the most red flags.
Neither the White House, State Department, nor the Biden campaign returned requests for comment on this story.