Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:
When the news broke in Ukraine, the public likewise focused more on the Ukrainian politicians who were implicated, especially the ones still prominent in public life. The then head of the Central Electoral Commission, Mykhailo Okhendovsky, was the only one to be officially charged, although in the end his case did not go to trial, as was common in cases of political figures. In early June, Leshchenko testified at the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, but then the summer began and with it, the dead season in Ukrainian politics. In mid-August Leshchenko broke some sensational news that was immediately confirmed by the head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau: The black ledger also listed the American lobbyist and political consultant Paul Manafort. He was well known in Ukraine as a long-serving advisor to Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. Manafort was credited with rebuilding Yanukovych’s image inside Ukraine after his defeat in the Orange Revolution of 2004–2005, as well as making him more acceptable to American decision makers during his tenure as president from 2010. Little was known at the time about his role during the EuroMaidan Revolution; subsequently, messages allegedly hacked from his daughter’s phone in 2017 seemed to suggest that he had proposed a violent scenario to end the revolution after a staged provocation, 10 but he was also involved in early attempts to rebuild the pro-Russian forces into a viable opposition after the EuroMaidan Revolution. Not only did Manafort work for the discredited Yanukovych and other pro-Russian forces in Ukraine but also he had known connections to Russian oligarchs. His account in the black ledger was also one of the largest, with a total of US $ 12.7 million recorded between 2007 and 2012. (Two prominent businessmen who sat in parliament as members of Yanukovych’s party signed as intermediaries on these disbursements.)
For all the right reasons that patriotic Ukrainians had to dislike Manafort, the timing of Leshchenko’s revelation was highly suspicious. Since June 2016 Manafort had been the manager of Trump’s presidential campaign, and the release of any compromising material on him was bound to harm it. It is also telling that the announcement came from someone better known as a controversial investigative journalist than a politician, although the head of the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency conveniently confirmed Leshchenko’s words right away, adding that a name in the ledger in and of itself did not prove anything. The ever-present factionalism in Ukrainian politics and Leshchenko’s reputation as a loose cannon cast some doubt on conspiracy theories presenting this affair as Ukraine’s state policy of interference in the US elections. But even if one accepts the view that the Ukrainian authorities sought plausible denial by allowing Leshchenko to break the story, Manafort’s transgressions were very real, and concealing this information about his entries in the black ledger would have constituted interference as well, benefiting the Trump camp. The Poroshenko administration found itself in a predicament, and its strategy of issuing only a limited confirmation of Leshchenko’s story from the technically independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau was likely the safest choice. Doing so meant leaving this matter up to the American justice system.