The origins of the Burisma disinformation campaign against Joe Biden lie in the long history of corruption in the government of Ukraine. Burisma was a natural gas development company that sought leases of gas fields in Ukraine. Its owner was oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky.
In 2010, Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions won the Presidential elections. The new President, Viktor Yanukovych, appointed Zlochevsky to be the Minister of Ecology, responsible for awarding leases of gas fields in Ukraine. Zlochevsky proceeded to give out lucrative gas licenses to several different shell companies that were subsidiaries of Burisma, his own company.
In early 2014, Yanukovych was deposed in a revolution after he ordered police to fire on protestors in Kyiv’s central square, the Maidan. Zlochevsky fled Ukraine. In April 2014, he tried to move some of his ill-gotten gains into the UK from Cyprus. The UK seized the funds. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office opened a case against Zlochevsky and Burisma.
Burisma needed a makeover. Its management team hired a series of new board members with international experience and reputations. One of those people was the Vice President’s son, Hunter Biden, whom the board hoped could connect the company with overseas investors. A non-executive director, Hunter Biden was also tasked with obtaining a law firm to help the company get the proposed investments from American companies. There is no evidence he ever engaged in any improper activities while on the board of Burisma.
A SEVEN MILLION DOLLAR BRIBE
The US tried to help the new Ukrainian government fight the corruption of the Yanukovych era and part of this aid included teaming up with the UK to help Ukraine to get the stolen Zlochevsky money back. The US was dismayed when despite spending half a million dollars on the effort, someone in the Prosecutor General’s Office took a $7,000,000 bribe to miss a deadline.
The State Department was unhappy and the US ambassador called out the Burisma failure and the Prosecutor General, Viktor Shokin in a speech by name. US State Department officials got the green light to condition additional aid on firing Viktor Shokin as Ukraine’s top law enforcement officer.
Vice President Joe Biden was tasked with handling diplomatic troubleshooting in several different areas of the world, including Ukraine and it fell to him to deliver the message in December 2015. He told Poroshenko the US would not approve upcoming loan guarantees for Ukraine’s government unless Shokin was fired. Poroshenko went along with Biden in the meeting, but Shokin stayed on for five more months.
THE INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOY
A few months later, In June 2016, pro-Russian Ukrainian law maker and oligarch Oleksandr Onyshchenko received a notice of suspicion from Ukraine’s Specialized Anticorrpution Prosecutor for embezzlement of funds from sales of natural gas, known as skimming. In response, Onyshchenko launched a media campaign accusing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as being a co-conspirator alongside himself in the large fraud perpetrated by Burisma during the previous administration. Prior to a vote to strip of him of his parliamentary immunity, he fled to Russia. The Ukrainian security services announced he was a Russian intelligence agent.
Onyshchenko considered himself an international playboy. Fortunately, he had a friend in America, his former business partner, Donald Trump, who at that very moment had won the Republican nomination for President. Onyshchenko, a pimp turned natural gas trader, had purchased the Ukrainian franchise for Trump’s Ms. Universe Pageant in the 2000’s.
Onyshchenko then left Moscow for his home in the Spanish countryside, where he settled down to a long extradition battle against Ukraine. When Onyshchenko’s friend Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Onyshchenko gave an interview to the Ukrainian publication Strana telling them he had congratulated Trump and that they were discussing the future of Ukraine and that Trump would bring peace. Onyshchenko also told Strana that the election would help his criminal case in Ukraine.
As Ukraine’s corruption investigation of Onyshchenko closed in, Onyshchenko needed that help. He turned to Russian-linked figures for help. The former media man for the Yanukovych administration, Viktor Zubritsky was tasked helping the fugitive get his message out. Zubritsky taped an interview with him where he was to detail his participation in a corrupt scheme with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Onyshchenko’s next move was to bring his claims to America, where his friend and former business partner was the President-elect. His lawyer reached out to the FBI. An FBI agent was sent to Spain to interview Onyshchenko in late November. He then told the Ukrainian Press that he had recorded Petro Poroshenko in corruption using his watch.
On December 1, 2016, Ukraine indicted Onyshchenko in absentia. He also soon learned that the FBI had declined to open an investigation based on his interview.
But the interview with Zubritsky leaked, and the b-roll showed Zubritsky coaching Onyshchenko’s on his claims about being involved in Burisma corruption with Poroshenko. On December 15th, Ukrainian publication Obzervatel revealed the video. Onyshchenko did not know the details of his claims about Poroshenko and was prompted by Zubritsky to make a series of claims including to say he feared for his life. In response to Zubritsky’s complaint that Onyshchenko did not have the detail needed, the fugitive responded that details were known by a reporter, he told Zubrkitsky. The video never aired.
THE BEGINNING OF THE DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN AGAINST JOE BIDEN
In the run-up to the 2020 election, Joe Biden wrote a book, Promise Me Dad about the death of his son Beau and the year of grief that followed. He also wrote an article about how to handle Putin with a colleague and appeared at the Council of Foreign Affairs to give a talk about it in early 2018. At the talk, Biden recounted pressuring Ukraine to fire Shokin. “Well son of a bitch” Biden exclaimed “He got fired.”
Biden’s words caused a stir in Ukraine. Viktor Shokin, in the midst of a court battle to regain his job as Prosecutor General, saw opportunity and gave interviews complaining of the unjust treatment he received.
Oleksandr Onyshchenko also saw opportunity in Biden’s words. On April 19, 2018, Onyshchenko provided a recording to Ukraine’s 1+1 TV. He alleged it recorded a call between himself and Petro Poroshenko. In it, Onyshchenko discusses entering into business with Zlochevsky and Burisma. When Poroshenko states that the Americans have been on his case in regards to Zlochevsky, Onyshchenko tells President Poroshenko that the U.S. will not interfere in the case because the son of “Senator Joe Biden” plays a significant role in the company’s business. It was the start of the disinformation campaign against Biden. The story was that Biden had forced Shokin from office to protect Burisma to help his son Hunter. The story, however, was false: the underlying story of tale corruption between Poroshenko and Onyshchenko was Russian disinformation.
The Ukrainian government announced the tape had evidence of tampering and that Onyshchenko was trying to avoid prosecution. Onyshchenko soon found that the tape of him being coached had permanently discredited him amongst Ukrainians. But these allegations would again surface a year later, this time in the hands of Rudy Giuliani.
On December 5th, 2018, Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with the President. According to Parnas, the President gave them a task—to go on a “secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden. It was the beginning of the Zelenskyy Affair. Nine months later, these accusations would explode into the Impeachment of Donald Trump.
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