The two Giuliani associates arrested in the United States were digging dirt on Joe Biden and trying to make a deal to sell liquified gas to Ukraine. That’s what Buzzfeed journalist Tania Kozyreva told Hromadske on October 13. Together with her colleagues she broke the story about Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two U.S. businessmen with ties to Ukraine, back in July.
Kozyreva said that they basically exposed that those two guys were traveling back and forth from the U.S. to Ukraine managing communications between Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and three Ukrainian prosecutors. The gas company they founded was receiving funds from a Russian citizen and financed Trump’s presidential campaign. Parnas and Fruman were also trying to establish contact with the new Ukrainian President Zelenskyy: they met with oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky in Israel to try and arrange a meeting with Zelenskyy.
You have been on this story for a while. Together with your colleagues, you've done a long investigation on Fruman and Parnas, talked to them. Now there is lot of press in the U.S., but, from your findings, what is the most important thing to know about those two people?
We published the story at the end of July. The story was published three days before the call that Trump made to talk with Zelenskyy. I think our story is mentioned in the whistleblower complaint. And the story was about two American businessmen who had roots in Ukraine, they both were born in the former Soviet Union, one of them in Odesa, the other one in Belarus. The most critical and important thing to follow in the story is... We basically exposed that those two guys were traveling back and forth from the U.S. to Ukraine and they were managing communications between Giuliani and three Ukrainian prosecutors: [Viktor] Shokin, [Nazar] Kholodnytskyi and [Yuriy] Lutsenko.
[The three prosecutors] were helping Fruman and Parnas to collect dirt on Biden and pass it to Giuliani. So instead their own interest was exposed. They were making a deal, they were trying to make a deal which basically saying that U.S. will sell liquified gas to Ukraine. They have found the company in the U.S. and they had communication with the head of Naftogaz, the state company, who was supposed to buy this gas, liquified gas from the U.S. through their company. So they had their commercial interest and they were collecting dirt on Biden and were involved in communication with Giuliani who was intensively pushing the story about Ukraine's influence on presidential campaign in 2016. So the thing is that Trump now is denying any contacts with them. He said "I don't know who those guys are." Parnas wall telling us that Giuliani is basically some kind of a God Father for his son. Apparently Fruman and Parnas have long-term ties with Trump himself and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Last year in Ukraine Parnas and Fruman were meeting not only with three prosecutors, they were also meeting Ukrainian oligarchs. One of them went public and claimed that those two guys are fraudsters. That was Ihor Kolomoisky who had a meeting with them in Israel and he said that they basically demanded money and they asked him to organize a meeting with Zelenskyy.
So, Giuliani meeting Zelenskyy? It was the meeting that was skipped in the end of spring before the inauguration when we for the first time heard this story about the attempt of Giuliani to approach Zelenskyy.
Yes. And basically Kolomoisky was the first businessman / oligarch who went vocal on them and he claimed that they are fraudsters. And the next day Fruman and Parnas filed two lawsuits against Kolomoisky. One of them is criminal complaint, saying that Kolomoisky frightened them and another one is civil complaint saying that Kolomoisky ruined their business reputation. And they demanded a lot of money, even for Kolomoisky. Giuliani went publicly protecting Fruman and Parnas. That was exposed and it was everywhere and the thing is that now we are seeing this indictment where American prosecutors are saying that there was a foreign individual number one and he is Russian, and he was giving the money to the company with the name Energy Producers and this company was giving the donations to the republican campaign. Basically it is illegal action because foreigners cannot donate to the political parties or be involved in any kind in the U.S. elections. So it is illegal action and they basically received those money from foreigners and they used it to buy the influence in the White House. They were donating to congressmen, to political parties.
Again to explain: that meeting did not happen. So later, further communication with Zelenskyy and Trump and the attempt of Giuliani to raise the issue of Biden went through the other channel. Do you have any information about the connection to [Ukrainian oligarch] Dmytro Firtash? Because in this recent article it is openly mentioned that they at some point represented the interests of Dmytro Firtash in the U.S. Recently Dmytro Firtash -- and it was a part of the decision to extradite him to the U.S. -- started to fuel more information into this conspiracy theory about Biden, Shokin. All of the sudden we understand that Firtash wants to buy some influence in the U.S. because he is going to face trial here. What can we say about this connection?
I already mentioned that basically Parnas and Fruman had a meeting with Kolomoisky in Israel. Kolomoisky says that initially this meeting was supposed to be about liquified gas, about this company that was supposed to conduct business between U.S. and Ukraine. I wouldn't be surprised if they would go to Firtash with the same kind of affair. It is not exposed, but we now know that Firtash recently hired a new lawyer, Victoria Toensing, who used to work with the Trump administration. He hired very influential lawyers who had good connections with the White House. And I would not be surprised if Parnas and Fruman had the same deal or were offering the same deal to Firtash. "Give us money and we will organize this gas business."
You managed to talk to Parnas, how did he sound?
That was not me who was talking with Parnas, it was my colleague Michael Sallah who went to Miami many times to meet Parnas personally [and] to convince him to talk on record and then later meet him in Washington. He had a lot of meetings with Parnas. Like with any other protagonist in the story, like with any other shady person, we have to double check all the information that we are receiving. Surprisingly Parnas was very cooperative and gave us a lot of information. He mentioned that they had a meeting also in Ukraine with [SBU head Ivan] Bakanov and [advisor to Zelenskyy Serhiy] Shefir.
Buzzfeed journalist Tania Kozyreva speaks to Hromadske. Photo: Hromadske
They are close to President Zelenskyy's circle?
Yes, they are very close to Zelenskyy, and basically they both confirmed that this meeting actually happened.
That was the meeting in spring.
That was the meeting between the first and the second round of elections. He was not yet elected, but it was obvious that he would be the next president, because the support was huge.