A Ukrainian associate of Rudy Giuliani has hired a business partner of Erik Prince to lobby Washington on his behalf regarding “corruption,” according to public records and interviews. The move became public on the Justice Department’s lobbying registry the same day that Joe Biden became the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee.
The business partner, former Ukrainian parliamentarian Andrii Artemenko, is registered to lobby using a different name. He’s also in the transportation and logistics business with Prince, and the two have been very busy because the coronavirus pandemic has snarled air travel around the world, Artemenko told POLITICO.
The Giuliani associate who hired Artemenko is Andriy Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s Rada who drew attention in U.S. media during President Donald Trump’s impeachment saga, and who was once a member of the Ukrainian political party that Paul Manafort worked for.
Derkach met with Giuliani when the former New York mayor and amateur sleuth traveled to Ukraine to help produce a documentary on the Bidens for the controversial pro-Trump TV network One America News, as Reuters reported. The Ukrainian lawmaker has pushed allegations of corruption involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and claims the previous Ukrainian administration meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.
Giuliani’s drumbeat of unsubstantiated allegations against the Bidens has quieted in recent months as the coronavirus has swept across the United States, even as the former vice president has all but secured the Democratic nomination. But Republicans on Capitol Hill have plowed ahead with their own investigative steps against the Biden family, threatening to revive the issue as the general election campaign heats up.
Derkach, before a pro-Western uprising toppled Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovuch, was a member of his Russia-aligned Party of Regions. Imprisoned ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort worked for that party, and for Yanukovych.
The filing shows only that Derkach hired a man named Andy Victor Kuchma to lobby for him, along with a second person named Nabil Ahmad Bader.
But “Andy Victor Kuchma” is actually Artemenko’s legal name, he told POLITICO. He said he legally changed his name to Andy Victor Kuchma in 2017; his wife’s last name is Kuchma, he said, and the new name is easier for Americans to understand. (Despite that, he still went by Andrii Artemenko when he appeared in a OAN episode about the Biden family a few months ago.)
Artemenko drew attention early in the Trump administration when the New York Times reported that he had shared with Michael Cohen — then Trump’s personal lawyer, now in prison –– a plan for peace between Ukraine and Russia. The plan, which would have leased Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula to Russia for decades, drew widespread criticism as being pro-Russia.
Artemenko featured prominently in a One America News episode about the Bidens and Ukraine. In it, he alleged that Ukrainian officials with allegations about the Bidens couldn’t get visas to come to the U.S. because of corruption at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
“They serve to the Democrats,” he said of U.S. Embassy officials. “They serve to the Mr. Soros.”
Derkach, meanwhile, recently said the U.S. has revoked his visa without explanation (the State Department does not comment on visa matters). Despite that, according to their lobbying contract, Artemenko and Bader plan to set up meetings for Derkachwith White House officials and members of “the Senate Foreign Relationship and House of Foreign Affairs Committees.” It is unclear where such meetings would take place, given the impact the coronavirus has had on Capitol Hill and Derkach’s current inability to lawfully travel to the U.S.
When asked whether the lobbying work would involve the Bidens, Derkach told Politico: “Under this contract, no targeted or other investigative activities are provided for and are not conducted. The materials under the contract are already being worked on.”
But the contract mentions topics that Giuliani and others have touched on when pontificating about the former vice president and his family:
“Accordingly, providing advice and assistance within the framework of the current legislation of the United States of America and Ukraine on actions aimed at investigating the facts of international corruption in the area of providing Ukraine with international technical assistance and loans, interfering with the activities of central and law enforcement agencies, and unlawful impact on the country’s domestic economic and political processes as well as attracting investments in machine industry and fuel and energy industry.”
Derkach featured prominently in a Feb. 21, 2020 episode of Giuliani’s podcast titled “The BLOCKBUSTER Report & RAPE of Ukraine,” where he discussed alleged misappropriation of U.S. aid to Ukraine during the Obama administration.
The contract’s reference to U.S. interference in Ukrainian law enforcement recalls allegations that Giuliani and other Trump allies have made regarding Biden’s push, as vice president, to have Ukraine’s top prosecutor fired.
Giuliani and others have argued that Biden forced the prosecutor out because he had investigated corruption at Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden was a board member. Biden’s push for the ouster of the prosecutor in question, Viktor Shokin, had broad support from America’s European allies. And Kurt Volker, who served as Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine for a time, told congressional impeachment investigators that Biden’s push “was widely understood internationally to be the right policy.”
A search of corporate records under Andy Kuchma’s name indicated he is in business with Erik Prince, who founded Blackwater. A company registered in Florida called Airtrans LLC lists Kuchma as its executive chairman, and Artemenko’s wife Oksana as its president. The company’s website says it is part of Frontier Resource Group, which Prince helms.
Artemenko confirmed that he and Prince are in business.
“We are working together,” he said.
Prince posted on LinkedIn earlier this week that his company has multiple Ukrainian heavylift aircraft available, and hashtagged the post “#coronavirus.” He included a photo of what appears to be a massive Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo plane; the Airtrans website, meanwhile has a picture that appears to depict the same kind of plane. Interesting Engineering has called the An-225 “a true monster of the skies.”
A spokesperson for Prince did not reply to requests for comment.