Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:
Zelensky, however, had been swept to power on a wave of popular discontent with precisely such backroom politicking. His hastily assembled team had few experienced political hands, but its members understood the need to project an image of transparent governance. Before the March 2019 election Zelensky’s campaign managers were unaware of the difficult problem in US-Ukrainian relations they were about to inherit from Poroshenko. When Giuliani first contacted Prosecutor General Lutsenko about the Bidens and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election, one can safely assume that President Poroshenko knew about this and likely authorized Lutsenko to meet with Giuliani in person in New York in January 2019. Moreover, Poroshenko himself met with Giuliani twice in early 2019. The Ukrainian president retroactively acknowledged the meetings but avoided questions about what was discussed there, other than American assistance with Ukrainian cybersecurity—a strange topic to discuss with a person holding no official position in the US administration. According to Parnas, Giuliani offered Trump’s support for Poroshenko’s re-election bid, complete with a visit to the White House, in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens and Ukraine’s alleged role in 2016.
After Zelensky took an impressive lead in the first round on March 31, members of the Poroshenko team started fighting for their political survival. Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who had the lowest chance of remaining in office, took a desperate gamble by denouncing publicly the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, for allegedly impeding his fight against corruption. In his trademark populist style, Lutsenko claimed that Yovanovitch had given him a “do-not-prosecute” list of Ukrainian officials—a statement he would eventually retract. Lutsenko intended to demonstrate his usefulness to Trump, but instead he alerted the Zelensky team to the conflicting signals from Washington. Trump’s removal of Yovanovitch in late April 2019, right after Zelensky’s sweeping runoff victory, put the American dilemma at the top of the new president’s agenda.