Ukraine opens probe into leaked 'Biden-Poroshenko' tapes

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By Alessio Dellanna  & AP
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the media during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the media during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 20, 2020   -  Copyright  AP Photo

Prosecutors in Ukraine are investigating leaked tapes that allegedly feature the country's former leader Petro Poroshenko discussing conditions for a $1 billion loan with former US Vice President Joe Biden.

The tapes, which are yet to be authenticated, were released on Tuesday, May 19, by Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach.

Derkach made so far unsubstantiated corruption accusations against Biden and his son, who used to serve on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

He claimed that Biden promised Poroshenko $1 billion in loan guarantees in exchange for ousting the then Prosecutor General Victor Shokin, to prevent him from investigating the company.

Shokin was eventually fired in March 2016.

In a Facebook statement, Poroshenko said the tapes were fabricated and described their release as part of a Kremlin-driven effort to “undermine bipartisan support of Ukraine in the United States.”

He called Biden a “friend and ally of Ukraine” and criticised Zelenskyy for eroding Western support for Ukraine to Moscow’s benefit.

П’ята колона Кремля розпочала масштабну спецоперацію проти України. Через втягування у передвиборчу боротьбу в Америці...

Publiée par Петро Порошенко sur Mercredi 20 mai 2020

The Biden campaign declined to comment on the latest Ukraine developments.

However, the US presidential candidate previously explained the loan was linked to the removal of Shokin as part of an anti-corruption effort backed by the US government, the EU and international lenders.

Derkach said he obtained the recordings from unnamed “investigative journalists” and claimed they were made by Poroshenko.

They do not appear to contain anything that could result in charges for Biden or his son. The recordings were seen by some observers as a political effort to help US President Donald Trump's reelection bid.

The Ukraine investigation was opened on treason and abuse of office charges, indicating it was mostly directed to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and there was no apparent sign that the probe could involve Biden too.

Trump last year pressured Ukraine's president Zelenskyy to investigate the Bidens in a phone call that triggered his impeachment, which later resulted in his acquittal.

Zelenskyy said he is "confident this is just the beginning" for Poroshenko. The former Ukrainian president was repeatedly accused of corruption by Zelenskyy in the past.