Wednesday

20th Jan 2021

US probe into Ukraine 'lobbying' by former EU officials

  • Many Ukrainians sought closer ties to the EU (Photo: Marco Fieber)

Speculation is rising some former EU officials were paid a total of €2 million to lobby a Russian-backed government in Ukraine by Donald Trump's disgraced campaign chief Paul Manafort.

The allegations were brought forward on Friday (24 February) in an indictment by US prosecutors probing Trump's entourage following accusations of Russian meddling in the US presidential race.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The indictment says Manafort "secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favourable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States".

Manafort is said to have paid the officials, or the so-called Hapsburg Group, in an effort to drum up support in 2012 and 2013 for the Moscow-backed president of Ukraine and Soviet-style leader Viktor Yanukovich.

While people are not directly named, the Hapsburg Group is said to have involved and been led by a former chancellor, believed to be Austria's Alfred Gusenbauer.

Gusenbauer has denied it all, according to the BBC.

"I was not aware of the fact Mr Manafort was financing this activity and of course I was also not connected to his activities within the Ukraine," he told the BBC in a statement.

Gusenbauer said he had instead been working to secure better trade relations between Ukraine and Europe.

Others reportedly include former European commission president Romano Prodi, who was quoted in the New York Times as saying that he had "never been paid from any lobby group in America."

Instead, he says he had been paid by Gusenbauer.

Pat Cox, the former president of the European parliament, has also denied any wrong doing, telling the Irish Times newspaper that he had worked at the time to secure the release of people imprisoned by Yanukovich. Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of the Orange revolution, was among those jailed.

Cox said he had never heard of the Hapsburg Group, had broadly opposed Yanukovich, and is willing to hand over records of his work to US authorities.

The EU at time were pushing to deepen trade ties with Ukraine but were rebuffed by Yanukovich in late 2013, which helped trigger a popular uprising among pro-Western Ukrainians ahead of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Yanukovich fled to Russia three months later in 2014 after having presided over Ukraine since 2010.

Manafort is accused of hiding away the earnings from the lobbying in off-shore accounts. He had also, according to the indictment, failed to register his lobbying work, casting a long shadow over any secret dealings he may have had with the Hapsburg Group.

The group was allegedly hired by the Brussels-based European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a think tank said to promote Yanukovych, according to Politico.

Opinion

EU must help independent media in Ukraine

Some seven journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the pro-EU uprising of 2014 - with elections looming in 2019, next year looks like another dangerous year for reporters covering Kiev.

Opinion

What might be next in EU-Ukraine relations?

The EU-Ukraine association deal - probably the most explosive EU deal with a third country in history - was long on open markets and trade barriers, but quiet on welfare states, poverty and inequality: all of which feed populism.

Interview

Ukraine eyes €500m EU aid, while fighting corruption

Kiev is hoping to secure more than €500m in EU aid by July, amid its never-ending fight against corruption. The finance minister tells EUobserver the prosecutor general should resign - meanwhile privatisations of 3,500 state-owned companies go ahead, despite war.

News in Brief

  1. EU to set up sharing mechanism for Covid-19 vaccines
  2. Poll: Europeans believe China to eclipse US on world stage
  3. New Covid variant found in Bavaria, Germany
  4. Will Italian government survive senate vote?
  5. UK to probe British Virgin Islands lawlessness
  6. Ice-hockey drops 2021 Belarus world cup
  7. EU's euro-strategy bodes ill for City of London
  8. EU vaccine-refuseniks could face travel problems

Opinion

The under-reported power struggle at the top of the OSCE

An internal power struggle has undermined the world's leading international security body since the summer. The OSCE is due to finally get new leaders in December but the unprecedented power vacuum has hit at a crunch time for hotspots worldwide.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. What do new CDU chief's pro-Russia views mean for Europe?
  2. Business as usual for EU and Russia, despite Navalny
  3. First look at EU's new '21st Century Bauhaus' project
  4. Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees
  5. Tackling frozen conflicts in the EU's own neighbourhood
  6. How one man and his dog made a mark on EU history
  7. Frontex spent €94,000 on a dinner in Warsaw
  8. EU's AI military strategy poses 'threat to Europeans'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us