Yuriy Lutsenko is the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine who has become a key figure in the Donald Trump impeachment hearings. According to a Federal Indictment, Lutsenko is allegedly the Ukrainian official that urged Rudy Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to remove Marie Yovanovitch from her position as ambassador to Ukraine.
Federal prosecutors have accused Parnas and Fruman of funneling foreign money to U.S. politicians in violation of federal campaign finance laws.
Lutsenko was the country’s chief prosecutor under the previous Ukrainian government. He was allegedly trying to improve his standing with Ukraine by strengthening the country’s relationship with the United States.
Giuliani saw Yovanovitch as a barrier to his mission of having Ukraine launch an investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden’s ties to corrupt company Burisma Holdings. He allegedly had Parnas and Fruman engage with Lutsenko in order to get Ukraine to announce the investigation.
“[Lutsenko’s] incentive to help was to take out the ambassador,” a former senior diplomat with experience in the region told NBC News. “He was angry at criticism from the U.S. embassy over the slow pace of reform in the justice sector.”
Before Lutsenko was named in the unsealed indictment, he was mentioned by President Trump in the July call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy. He wasn’t mentioned by name but Trump praised an unnamed prosecutor, telling the Ukrainian president “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair,” Trump said. “A lot of people are talking about that.”
Lutsenko says he has known Giuliani for “many years” and considers him a friend, according to NBC News. He says they spoke “maybe 10 times.” in the past year and talked “about our system, about some of our law enforcement divisions and possibilities to cooperate.” He also says the two discussed former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Lutsenko served as Minister of Internal Affairs in the two cabinets of Yulia Tymoshenko and in cabinets of Yuriy Yekhanurov, and Viktor Yanukovych. He served as the country’s chief prosecutor from May 2016 to August 2019.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He’s Currently Under Investigation for Abuse of Power
Following the indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, The National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine opened a criminal investigation against Lutsenko at the request of Kyiv’s Solomyansky District Court, according to Kyiv Post.
Lutsenko is currently under investigation for criminal abuse of office though that nature of his transgressions is unclear. It may or may not be tied to the indictment of Parnas and Fruman or his attempt to curry favor with the United States.
In addition to the criminal investigation, The State Bureau of Investigations opened a separate criminal case against Lutsenko related to Lutsenko’s alleged ties to illegal gambling businesses.
2. He Was Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Embezzlement and Abuse of Office
In 2010, Lutsenko was charged with abuse of office and forgery by Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Pshonka. According to the Kyiv Post, he allegedly “signed an order whilst on holiday, not having canceled the traditional “National Militia Day” despite a general instruction from the then Prime Minister to make budgetary savings where possible, and finally with letting the Ministry overpay his personal driver and provide him with an official flat.”
Lutsenko claimed the charges were politically motivated. Several international organizations agreed. “As a reformist interior minister who – among other things – dismantled the criminal hit squad within the ministry responsible for such high-profile crimes as the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, he angered some persons who are now back in power,” Marieluise Beck of Germany, a rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), told the Kyiv Post.
He was in custody for 14 months before being sentenced to four years in prison. His sentence was condemned by the European Commission, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and the United States Department of State at the time, Victoria Nuland.
After serving 5 months of his sentence, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the arrest of Lutsenko violated his human rights and ordered the Ukrainian government to pay 15,000 Euro to Lutsenko as compensation for moral damages.
Lutsenko avoided one prison sentence but ran into another one. He was sentenced two years in prison for his role in a separate case involving Valentyn Davydenko, the driver of former Security Service of Ukraine First Deputy Chief Volodymyr Satsiuk, during an investigation into the poisoning of then presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko.
Lutsenko was eventually pardoned by President Viktor Yanukovych in April 2013 after a request was made by Ukrainian parliamentary Lutkovska, former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
3. He Was the Focus of a Huge Scandal After Being Arrested for Being Drunk at the Frankfurt Airport
Yuri Lutsenko was detained at the Frankfurt airport in 2009 for being drunk and disorderly. Officials told Reuters at the time that Lutsenko and his 19-year old son were stopped from boarding a plane to Seoul, South Korea, after airport officials noticed that they were severely drunk.
The two men protested loudly and threw their mobile phones at the airport officials who called the incident an “ugly situation.”
Lutsenko sent in his letter of resignation following the incident where he said that the initial report of the arrest was overblown and false. He claimed the German police eventually apologized to him and that the false reporting was an attempt to get him removed from his position.
The Ukrainian Parliament had to approve his resignation before he left his post and launched an investigation into the incident. Lutsenko was suspended during the investigation. The Party of Regions faction accepted his resignation while the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc faction refused to accept until they had proof of his wrongdoing.
Lutsenko was allowed to return to his post after a 7-day investigation was completed.
4. He Claims He Attempted to Return $1.5 Billion in Stolen Funds from Former President Viktor Yanukovych to the United States
Lutsenko told Ukrainian media outlet Ukrayinska Pravda that he had found and returned over $7B from Yanukovych’s “criminal organization” during his time as a prosecutor.
“Another $7 billion of the same organization was withdrawn from Ukraine to the United States. […] This is the money of Yanukovych’s criminal organization. When we confiscated one-and-a-half billion [U.S. dollars], they came through more than ten different offshore companies connected by the same individuals. Some offshore companies were also present during the withdrawal of seven billion [U.S. dollars]. It means that the same organization operated with the same methods and sometimes with the same tools,” he said to Ukrayinska Pravda.
Lutsenko took issue with Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony last week after she claimed he had tried to return the money but refused to bring the proper documentation. He says that he tried several times to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and rectify the situation but received no answer.
“There is a direct lie in [former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine] Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony to Congress. She states that I wanted this meeting, but refused to provide the documents about what I wanted to discuss in the U.S. I took these documents,” Lutsenko said last week.
5. He Claimed Marie Yovanovitch Gave Him “A List of People Whom We Should Not Prosecute”
Yuriy Lutsenko told Hill.TV in an interview in March that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch gave him a do not prosecute list during their first meeting.
“Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko said.
“At that time we had a case for the embezzlement of the U.S. government technical assistance worth 4 million U.S. dollars, and in that regard, we had this dialogue,” he said. “At that time, [Yovanovitch] thought that our interviews of Ukrainian citizens, of Ukrainian civil servants, who were frequent visitors of the U.S. Embassy put a shadow on that anti-corruption policy.”
“My response of that is it is inadmissible. Nobody in this country, neither our president nor our parliament nor our ambassador, will stop me from prosecuting whether there is a crime,” he added.
Yovanovich called the claim an “outright fabrication.” during the impeachment hearing and said the accusation all stemmed from his interview with The Hill. Lutsenko later walked back his accusation.