The Sixth Administrative Court of Appeals has canceled a court ruling that found that independent lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, unlawfully interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The appeals court made its ruling on July 16 and published the document the next day.
In December 2018, the Kyiv Administrative District Court had ruled in favor of Petro Poroshenko Bloc lawmaker Boryslav Rozenblat in a lawsuit he filed against Leshchenko and Sytnyk.
That court concluded that Leshchenko and Sytnyk had illegally interfered in Ukraine’s foreign policy when they revealed that the surname and signature of Paul Manafort, then a campaign manager for U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump, had been found in the so-called “black ledger” of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. The court also stated that Leshchenko’s actions had caused “interference” in American electoral processes and harmed the Ukrainian state’s interests.
The “black ledger” is alleged to show suspicious payments by the Party of Regions to a range of individuals and officials. It became a key document implicating Manafort in corruption in Ukraine, and helped to end his tenure as Trump’s campaign chair in August 2016. Trump would go on to win the U.S. presidency in November 2016.
Leshchenko has argued that the December 2018 court ruling against him was unlawful and part of an attempt by ex-President Petro Poroshenko and Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko to curry favor with Trump.
He also said that Rozenblat had no right to file the lawsuit because his interests had not been affected and because, according to the Supreme Court, administrative courts cannot consider lawsuits against Verkhovna Rada lawmakers. Leshchenko added that the statute of limitations for the lawsuit had expired.
Rozenblat denied the accusations of wrongdoing, in turn accusing Leshchenko of unlawful interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.
Lutsenko responded to Leshchenko’s comments on May 14 by calling him a “skunk” and saying that he would be questioned and charged with unlawfully revealing the details of the Manafort investigation.
Lutsenko has also been accused of trying to curry favor with Trump by commenting on the Ukrainian activities of Joe Biden, Trump’s potential Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election.
In April, Lutsenko hinted that the Prosecutor General’s Office was investigating the activities of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who used to be a member of Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma’s board of directors. Later Lutsenko backtracked, claiming that prosecutors did not suspect Biden and his son of any wrongdoing.
However, top prosecutor Kostyantyn Kulik told the Kyiv Post in May that the Prosecutor General’s Office had been investigating Joe Biden. A memo allegedly leaked from the Prosecutor General’s Office by Leshchenko shows that prosecutors accuse Joe Biden of receiving “an unlawful benefit” from Burisma Group. Biden and his son deny the accusations of wrongdoing.
In May, Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, claimed that Leshchenko had been convicted of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on the side of the Democratic Party. In response, Leshchenko said that Lutsenko had deliberately deceived Giuliani, since the administrative court ruling against him was not a “conviction.”
Giuliani told the New York Times he planned to visit Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and advance several investigations beneficial to Trump.
After a public outcry in the U.S., Giuliani later announced that he would cancel the trip because of “people that are enemies of the president, in some cases enemies of the United States and, in one case, an already convicted person who has been found to be involved in assisting the Democrats with the 2016 election.”
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