Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani continues mysterious Ukraine adventures

Oliver Carroll
AFP via Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani – lawyer to Donald Trump, man at the centre of an impeachment scandal, and a verified “live hand-grenade” – touched down on a WizzAir budget flight in Kiev airport on Wednesday afternoon.

After that, he disappeared.

There are only a few details of what happened over the next 24 hours.

We know he met with Andrei Derkach, an MP so closely associated with Soviet and Ukrainian security services that he was once talked about as “the Ukrainian Putin.”

We know the details of meeting only because Mr Derkach wrote about them on social media.

Taking to Facebook, the MP announced he would be setting up a new cross-party “anti-corruption” group with Mr Giuliani's help. He would be joined in his fight by Alexander Dubinsky, an MP currently associated with one of the country’s least transparent oligarchs.

According to The New York Times, Mr Giuliani planned other meetings with a range of mostly marginal Ukrainian actors. The list included Viktor Shokin, the ‘very good’ former prosecutor who Donald Trump claimed was sacked for investigating Joe Biden’s son (the reality was rather different). Two days earlier, Mr Giuliani travelled to Budapest to meet with Yuri Lutsenko, Mr Shokin’s even-less well-regarded successor.

The main updates on the former New York mayor’s trip came via the Twitter account of Chanel Rion, a journalist with the right-wing One America News (OAN) cable network. Together, they were “conducting bombshell exclusive interviews,” she wrote.

But the lawyer was keeping unusually schtum. On Wednesday, he told another US TV network that he “couldn’t say” what he was doing there.

It was certainly a question that many Ukrainians were asking.

Since Congress opened an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump's shadow diplomacy in Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani has been a central focus for investigations.

Evidence presented during the inquiry suggests Mr Giuiliani pushed discredited conspiracy theories involving Ukraine in an effort to boost his boss’s election prospects. He is also cited as a driving force behind lobbying Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky to open a criminal investigation into the family of Trump’s major rival Joe Biden.

In May, Mr Giuliani planned to visit the Ukrainian capital on a “dirt-digging” trip. As The Independent reported, the trip was cancelled when it became clear that he would not get a meeting with then-president-elect Zelensky.

Mr Zelensky and his advisors were unsure about the role the former mayor was playing. Only later did the level of coordination with the White House become clear.

While an official presidential seal is absent this time around too, many in Kiev assume that the lawyer is once again in town on Mr Trump’s bidding. And that makes the timing of the intervention particularly suspect.

On Monday, Paris will play host to what many bill as an historical four-way summit between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

Five years into a bloody war that has killed over 13,000, Mr Zelensky is desperate to talk up peace. But it will be his first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin and not everyone is convinced he can achieve a breakthrough.

Given the delicate circumstances, it is unclear why Mr Trump sent such an odd message four days before the meeting.

“No one was expecting his messenger here,” the independent expert Volodymyr Fesenko said.

“But it likely won’t make much of a difference. Zelensky is too busy with other things right now than to deal with Trump and Giuiliani's games.”

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