Former Ambassador Decries ‘Concerted Effort’ Behind Her Removal
5 November, 2019
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch (L) and Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov during a panel discussion in Kyiv, Ukraine on December 15, 2016. Yulia Babych / UNIAN

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch spoke to the U.S. Congress this October at a closed deposition related to an impeachment inquiry being conducted against the U.S. President, Donald Trump. Now, the transcript of her testimony has been made available to the public.

In her deposition, Amb. Yovanovitch describes her time at the embassy, after the election of Donald Trump, as one of confusion. One of the more persistent threads is the so-called "two-tiered" diplomacy being conducted in Kyiv by the Trump administration – on the one hand, official US policy, and on the other, "shadow" diplomacy conducted by the President’s personal lawyer, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

According to Yovanovitch, much of what was later reported in the press regarding Giuliani’s visits with top Ukrainian officials, including former Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, was not relayed to the U.S. Embassy, but that Yovanovitch later learned via media reports to rumors and gossip. She claims she was unaware of any dislike the U.S. president held towards her until it was reported in the press, along with the false claim that Yovanovitch provided Lutsenko with a do-not-prosecute list.

In fact, the transcript, in Yovanovitch’s words, shows a marked unwillingness of certain Ukrainian officials, including Lutsenko, to go along with established diplomatic procedure – one motive suggested by the Ambassador for Lutsenko’s false claim was that he was “personally angry” with Yovanovitch’s insistence that Lutsenko coordinate with the FBI agents at the U.S. embassy, instead of working around the system.

She also claims that Giuliani’s motives for visiting Ukraine were not entirely clear to her, or to the State Department, despite Giuliani’s meetings with some top Ukrainian officials, and that the appearance of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, further muddied the water.

“...with the advantage of hindsight, you’re going to think that I’m incredibly naive, but I couldn’t imagine the things that have happened over the last 6 or 7 months. I just couldn’t imagine in,” said Yovanovitch, in response to her learning of meetings between Lutsenko and Giuliani.

Yovanovitch also speaks at length about her fight to find support from the State Department – especially as the nature of Giulaini’s meetings in Ukraine remained mysterious to her. But questioning revealed that support for the Ambassador was not forthcoming.

“What I wanted was the Secretary of State to issue a statement that said, you know, I have his full confidence or something like that, to indicate that I, in fact, am the ambassador in Ukraine, and that I speak for the President, for the Secretary of State, for the country,” commented the ambassador in response to a question on her reaction to attacks on her via the media.

And while the former ambassador claims that she didn’t understand what the purpose of Giuliani’s meetings in Ukraine were at the time, she thought she had a grasp on Lutsenko. She says Lutsenko was hoping for the U.S. president to endorse former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who at that time was facing then-candidate Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a presidential election.

Poroshenko did not end up with an endorsement from Trump, and lost the election. And Yovanovitch was removed anyway, in what she says were very abrupt and shocking circumstances.

“[Carol Perez, Director-General of the U.S. Foreign Service] said that there was a lot of concern for me, and that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington. And I was like, what? What happened? And she said, I don’t know, but this is about your security...And I said physical security? ...And she said no, I didn’t get that impression, but you need to come back immediately,” Yovanovitch recalled.

And, on returning to D.C., she said that she was shocked to learn that Donald Trump had been working to remove her from her post since July of 2018. She says that her abrupt removal from the post – Ukraine still does not have a permanent U.S. ambassador in residence – has damaged rule-of-law and anti-corruption initiatives in the country. 

And she says now, she understands that Trump was in fact pursuing two policies – the official U.S. policy of anti-corruption and support against Russia, and an unofficial parallel policy involving Giuliani and personal deals.