Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an investigation Wednesday of leaked recordings purportedly depicting then-Vice President Joe Biden telling Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko that his country would receive U.S. aid once top prosecutor Viktor Shokin was replaced.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee already has acknowledged such an arrangement publicly. But the leaked audio revived criticism that Biden was engaged in a kind of quid-pro-quo, much like President Trump was accused — during impeachment proceedings — of linking U.S. aid to calls for Zelensky to probe Shokin’s ouster.
The new audio indicates Poroshenko went along with Biden’s plan but did not think Shokin was involved in wrongdoing.
Shokin purportedly has said under oath that he had launched a probe concerning Hunter Biden’s role at Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings when he was ousted. Hunter Biden held a lucrative post there, despite limited expertise, while his father handled Ukrainian policy as vice president. At the least, Ukrainian prosecutors had previously been investigating Burisma’s founder. Biden’s defenders have argued his intervention had nothing to do with Burisma and was focused on corruption concerns.
Zelensky said at a news conference in Ukraine that the contents of the leaked conversations, however, “might be perceived, qualified as high treason,” according to The Washington Post. Ukrainian prosecutors have said they are looking into sweeping “international corruption.” Zelensky has tried to maintain good relations with the Trump administration, even as his 2019 discussions were at the core of the U.S. president’s impeachment.
Andriy Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, released the recordings a day earlier.
“It’s going to be critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage that Shokin did,” the man identified as Biden says in one clip. “And I’m a man of my word. And now that the new prosecutor general is in place, we’re ready to move forward to signing that new $1 billion loan guarantee. And I don’t know how you want to go about that… I’ll leave it to you to how you want it done and where you want it done.”