US sanctions Ukrainian lawmaker who published Biden-Poroshenko tapes for ‘Russian influence’ in presidential election

Ukrainian parliamentarian Andrii Derkach has been sanctioned by the US, and his publication of alleged phone calls between the Ukrainian president and the US vice president declared ‘Russian interference’ in the US election.

Derkach “has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services,” the US Treasury Department declared on Thursday, sanctioning the member of parliament for “foreign interference in an attempt to undermine” the upcoming presidential elections. In addition, three alleged employees of the Internet Research Agency, also referred to as the St. Petersburg ‘troll factory,’ were placed on the sanctions list.

The move against “four Kremlin-linked officials” was hailed by the State Department as “a clear signal that the United States will not tolerate interference or influence” in the upcoming vote.

No evidence was offered for the allegation that either Derkach, or the IRA trio – identified as Artem Lifshits, Anton Andreyev and Darya Aslanova – were actually in any way connected to the Russian government.

Instead, the Treasury claimed that Derkach had “waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning US officials.” Between May and July this year, he released “edited audio tapes and other unsupported information with the intent to discredit” US officials, they allege.

Derkach released several hours worth of audio tapes purporting to be conversations between former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former US Vice President Joe Biden from 2014-2016, including references to investigations of the gas company Burisma, which had given Biden’s son Hunter a lavishly compensated seat on its board.

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President Petro Poroshenko (L) of Ukraine and US Vice President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 20, 2016.
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Poroshenko has denounced the revelations as “fabrications” and “part of a large-scale hybrid war” by Russia, and it appears the US Treasury has taken his word at face value. There was no indication any of Derkach’s claims, the tapes, or the documents he offered to the press have been investigated; instead, the Treasury simply asserts that everything he said was “unsubstantiated.”

Similarly, Derkach’s “reliance on US platforms” is taken as proof that he “almost certainly targeted the US voting populace, prominent US persons, and members of the US government.”

The Treasury’s explanation of why Derkach was sanctioned basically claims that any effort to investigate Biden – now the Democratic presidential nominee – or his son amounts to “interference” in US elections, which was the main premise of the Democrat-led effort to impeach President Donald Trump back in September 2019. 

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