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WEDNESDAY, October 05, 2022
Trump administration revokes visa of Ukrainian political fixer linked to Giuliani

Trump administration revokes visa of Ukrainian political fixer linked to Giuliani

TUESDAY, October 06, 2020

WASHINGTON - The State Department last month revoked the visa of a Ukrainian political fixer who aided President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani in his gambit last year to dig up information from Ukraine that would damage former vice president Joe Biden in the 2020 election, according to U.S. officials. 

The revocation of Ukrainian fixer Andrii Telizhenko's visa comes as U.S. officials crack down on Russian efforts to influence the November vote. The revocation, which hasn't previously been reported, came shortly before the Treasury Department sanctioned a different Ukrainian who was cooperating with Giuliani - lawmaker Andriy Derkach - and dubbed Derkach an "active Russian agent for over a decade" and said he was trying to interfere in the election, the U.S. officials said.

Telizhenko was unable to board a Sept. 9 Ukrainian International Airlines flight from Kyiv to New York, according to a person familiar with his travel plans and a Ukrainian government official who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity.

Telizhenko accompanied Giuliani during a trip to Kyiv late last year, which included a meeting with Derkach. Derkach's visa was pulled by the State Department earlier this year. Both Ukrainians had been interacting regularly with Giuliani as the former New York mayor sought to obtain information from Ukraine that would help Trump's electoral chances.

On Monday, in a statement on the Derkach designation, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine said anyone who does business with a sanctioned person could be subject to sanctions. 

Derkach has not responded to requests for interviews since he was sanctioned. In a statement on Facebook, he described the U.S. action as a "preventive response to my next press conference. . . . It is revenge against me, as a representative of the team of investigators."

The U.S. moves, officials say, show an administration willing to target people furthering Moscow's efforts to stoke political divisions in American society. They come despite the president's aversion to acknowledging the Kremlin's interference activities.

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Telizhenko's visa revocation. 

Giuliani didn't respond to phone calls and emails requesting comment.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Volodomyr Yelchenko, praised the administration's actions against Derkach and Telizhenko. "They are just ruining our efforts to preserve bipartisan support for Ukraine," he said of the two Ukrainians in an interview. "They've tried to torpedo our relationship. When they come up with unsubstantiated stories to help one side on the eve of elections, that's concerning. I'm glad the United States has seen them for what they are."

Telizhenko has denied involvement in Russian interference or disinformation operations and has denied working with Derkach, who has denied that he is a Russian agent.

Telizhenko told The Washington Post several times over the past two weeks that he had no knowledge of his U.S. visa being revoked. "I didn't hear anything of that at all," he said. The State Department usually notifies an affected individual of a visa revocation, but as a rule does not make the information public. 

Telizhenko provided The Post with documentation purporting to show that he traveled from Kyiv to New York in September. However, a Ukrainian government official and another person familiar with his travel said he did not board that flight - the only flight from Kyiv to New York in September - and did not leave the country that month.

Telizhenko declined requests to provide proof of his entry or his stay in the United States. He said that for "security reasons" he is shielding information about his movements. Telizhenko worked for the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office in Kyiv before moving to Washington in 2015 and getting a job at the embassy in Ukraine. He left in mid-2016 and went to work for a year for Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic-run lobbying firm. That firm represented Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that placed Biden's son Hunter on its board of directors and is at the center of unfounded allegations by Giuliani against Joe Biden.

"He got hired by BlueStar to help facilitate the Democrats and the Clinton agenda," one U.S. official said. "Then he reinvented himself as this pro-Trump truthteller. He doesn't care - as long as he's paid."

Beginning in 2017, Telizhenko promoted the narrative that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Citing his experience at the embassy in Ukraine, he asserted that Ukrainian officials colluded with the Democratic Party to assist Hillary Clinton. That fueled the baseless theory - one pushed by Moscow - that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.

Giuliani joined the president's allies in seizing upon Telizhenko's theory as a way to defend Trump in the midst of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference and contacts between the Russian government and Trump associates. 

Telizhenko first sparked U.S. officials' concern in early 2019, when he began promoting such pro-Russian narratives by sharing information with Republican lawmakers. Later that year, he began discussions with Giuliani.

Giuliani met with Telizhenko several times last year and relied on him to organize a trip to Hungary and Ukraine during the impeachment proceedings. On that trip, Giuliani met twice with Derkach, according to Telizhenko, who said he was present for one of the meetings but denied arranging them. 

Derkach appeared this year on Giuliani's YouTube show "Common Sense," a platform for Giuliani to share his take on politics. Although Telizhenko denies working with Derkach, he provided the English-language voice-over for Derkach's Russian comments to Giuliani.

Derkach again drew the attention of U.S. officials this spring when he began releasing leaked edited recordings of then-vice president Biden speaking to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Around the time Derkach released the tapes, Telizhenko made public a transcript of Biden speaking with Poroshenko. He said he received the document from someone other than Derkach.

"I know that [Derkach] is not a good person," Telizhenko told The Post. "That's why I try to keep away from him as far as possible. It's a total different game what he's doing and I'm doing. I don't publicly support Derkach. That's the main point."

In an interview with The Post this year, Telizhenko said he had more transcripts of Biden's conversations, which he said he provided to someone in the United States who might release them closer to the election.

Telizhenko also became a flash point in Senate Republicans' probe of Biden and Ukraine this year. Democrats criticized Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for taking information from Telizhenko in the course of their investigation, which culminated in a report released in September. 

Telizhenko told The Post last month that he cooperated extensively with Johnson's probe. This included handing over "more than 100 emails," which were drawn mainly from Telizhenko's previous work at the embassy in Ukraine. This prompted Democrats to accuse the Johnson of laundering foreign disinformation. 

Johnson denied the allegation and said the Democrats were smearing him to discredit the report. The report said Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma gave the appearance of a conflict of interest; it did not demonstrate that his involvement with the Ukrainian gas firm changed U.S. policy toward Ukraine or influenced Joe Biden's actions in any way.