The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv first began to hear of the campaign against Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in November 2018, the ousted diplomat said on Friday.
Yovanovitch told the House Intelligence Committee that she learned of “rumors from Ukrainians” about Rudy Giuliani’s campaign to have her removed around November and December, but that “it became more obvious” by February and March.
The Hill’s John Solomon published a series of baseless accusations against Yovanovitch in late March 2019.
Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she had heard about Giuliani and his two pals Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in February from Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, a politician in charge of part of the country’s law enforcement apparatus known locally as a staunch ally of the embassy.
The ambassador recalled that Avakov told her “that they basically wanted to remove me from post and that they were working on that.”
“I had never met Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, and so it was unclear to me why, why there interested in doing this,” she added.
Yovanovitch then addressed a separate question: was she unique in advancing anti-corruption policy, a long-held U.S. priority in Ukraine?
“All I can conclude is that it was the general U.S. policies that we were implementing, that might’ve been of concern to them,” Yovanovitch said.
She added that part of the issue may have come down to Parnas and Fruman’s attempts to import American liquefied natural gas into Ukraine.
That venture never went anywhere, beyond apparently grandiose pitches for the venture that may have involved Giuliani himself.
“These two individuals, with hindsight and what we learned later, were looking to open up a new energy company, exporting liquefied natural gas to Ukraine,” Yovanovitch said.
“They never actually came to the embassy,” she added.