U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Ukrainians Linked to Giuliani for Election Disinformation
12 Jan 2021

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Monday against seven Ukrainians — including two who assisted President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani — for being part of what it called “a Russia-linked foreign influence network” that spread “fraudulent and unsubstantiated allegations” about President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. during the 2020 campaign.

Mr. Giuliani relied on two of the Ukrainians who were penalized — Andrii Telizhenko and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk — as he sought to gather damaging information and force government investigations into Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, related to Ukraine. That effort, which had the president’s backing, led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment in 2019 by the House of Representatives.

The sanctions announced on Monday stemmed from the Ukrainians’ work with Andriy Derkach, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, who was the target of sanctions by the Treasury Department last year and was accused of being a Russian agent and spreading disinformation about Mr. Biden. Mr. Derkach had met with Mr. Giuliani in 2019.

The Ukrainians penalized on Monday were accused in a statement released by the Treasury Department of helping Mr. Derkach “spread misleading and unsubstantiated allegations that current and former U.S. officials engaged in corruption, money laundering and unlawful political influence in Ukraine.”

The targets of the sanctions also included four media companies that the Treasury Department said were affiliated with Mr. Derkach and were involved in his efforts to spread disinformation.

The sanctions are the latest in a series of steps taken by the Treasury Department over the past few years to punish people and groups that it accused of involvement in Russia-linked election interference, even as Mr. Trump, an intended beneficiary of the interference, has continued to downplay Russia’s role.

“Russian disinformation campaigns targeting American citizens are a threat to our democracy,” Steven T. Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in the statement. “The United States will continue to aggressively defend the integrity of our election systems and processes.”

Mr. Kulyk had worked in the office of Ukraine’s national prosecutor, where he helped lead an investigation into a Ukrainian oligarch who owned a gas company that had paid Hunter Biden as a board member when his father was serving as vice president and overseeing American relations with Ukraine. Mr. Kulyk discussed the subject with Mr. Giuliani, who was pushing the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into the Bidens to damage the former vice president’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Kulyk, who has since been fired from the prosecutors’ office, was accused by the Treasury Department on Monday of forming “an alliance with Derkach to spread false accusations of international corruption.”

Mr. Telizhenko, a political consultant and former official in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, provided information to Senate Republicans for a report on the Bidens’ work in Ukraine, which was released weeks before Election Day in an apparent effort to damage the Biden campaign. The report found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president.

Mr. Telizhenko assisted Mr. Giuliani during the 2020 campaign, arranging meetings with Ukrainians claiming to have damaging information about the Bidens. Mr. Telizhenko helped plan a trip for Mr. Giuliani to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, in December 2019, during which Mr. Giuliani met with Mr. Derkach and recorded interviews with him and others that aired on Mr. Giuliani’s podcast and a special on the pro-Trump cable channel One America News Network.

The Treasury Department seemed to allude to this trip in explaining its sanctions of Mr. Telizhenko, noting in its statement that he “orchestrated meetings between Derkach and U.S. persons to help propagate false claims concerning corruption in Ukraine.” The statement did not explicitly name Mr. Giuliani or the Bidens, but it asserted that the sanctioned Ukrainians “leveraged U.S. media, U.S.-based social media platforms and influential U.S. persons” in their efforts to spread damaging allegations.

”I will continue to fight for the truth no matter what lies are spread against me, as God is where the truth is,” Mr. Telizhenko said in an emailed statement on Monday. “I stood and will stand with President Donald J. Trump.”

Mr. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

After the sanctions against Mr. Derkach were announced in September, Mr. Giuliani said in an interview that he “didn’t do much investigation” of Mr. Derkach but had “no reason to believe he is a Russian agent.”

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Pranshu Verma, The New York Times, 11 January 2021

Read more at The New York Times

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