Ukrainian ex-prosecutor in Trump scandal tries to regain top job

Trump claims Shokin was fired at behest of Biden to shield his son

Former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin is going to court to try to win back his old job. Photograph: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin is going to court to try to win back his old job. Photograph: NurPhoto/Getty Images

 

The former Ukrainian prosecutor general at the heart of a scandal that has prompted a bid to impeach US president Donald Trump is going to court to try to win back his old job.

Viktor Shokin was sacked as Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016, due to what Mr Trump claims was pressure applied to Kiev by then US vice-president Joe Biden, who hopes to be the Democrats’ challenger in next year’s presidential election.

Mr Trump suggests that Mr Biden wanted to stop Mr Shokin investigating Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, where his son Hunter Biden was a director.

Anti-corruption experts in Kiev reject that allegation as nonsense, but a July phone call in which Mr Trump repeatedly pressed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden and his son has led Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry.

White House memo

A White House memo of their conversation showed that Mr Trump told Mr Zelenskiy, in apparent reference to Mr Shokin: “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.”

Documents on the website of the Ukrainian supreme court show that Mr Shokin’s appeal against dismissal is scheduled for October 3rd.

He argues that then Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and the country’s parliament acted incorrectly in firing him. A court rejected his first appeal in 2017, and the court documents say his latest appeal is a response to unspecified “new circumstances” that have come to light.

Ukrainian media say the appeal was filed on September 2nd, before the current scandal around Mr Trump erupted following a complaint by a whistleblower in the US intelligence services.

However, for several months Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has urged Ukrainian officials and Mr Zelenskiy’s aides to look into whether Mr Biden targeted Mr Shokin to shield Burisma and his son from scrutiny.

Mr Biden has acknowledged threatening to withhold US loan guarantees from Ukraine unless Mr Shokin was sacked, but insists this was part of a broad western effort to kick-start Kiev’s stalled fight against corruption.

Indeed, Ukrainian anti-graft campaigners say Mr Shokin was not investigating Burisma and blocked attempts to prosecute powerful businessmen and politicians.

Western capitals welcomed his removal in March 2016, with the European Union’s envoy to Kiev at the time, Jan Tombinksi, calling it “an opportunity to make a fresh start in the prosecutor general’s office” amid “a lack of tangible results of investigations into serious cases”.