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Law enforcement charges famous lawmaker with high treason

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 13, 2023 6:44 PM 3 min read
Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinskyi during a court session on Aug. 10, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Vitalii Nosach /Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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Ukraine's Bureau of Investigation charged lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinskyi with high treason.

Although the report did not name the current MP by name, Dubinskyi’s spokesperson told the Kyiv Independent that the searches at his place are currently ongoing.

"Oleksandr will comment after they are done," Dubinskyi’s spokesperson said.

According to Ukraine's Security Service, Dubinskyi, code-named Buratino (Pinocchio), is allegedly one of several current and former officials involved in the scheme. The criminal organization also included former MP Andrii Derkach, whose Ukrainian citizenship was stripped in January 2023 for treason and his involvement with pro-Russian parties.

Derkach faced treason charges on the grounds that he received funds from a Russian intelligence agency to create private security firms that Russia planned to use for capturing Ukraine.

Dubinskyi testified against his former partner in the treason case.

Derkach was specifically named in the SBU's report, as well as former prosecutor Kostiantyn Kulyk, and Ihor Koliesnikov, a former assistant to Derkach.

Koliesnikov has already been convicted of treason on a different charge and is currently in prison.

The alleged scheme was directed by agents from Russia's military intelligence agency (GRU) and was aimed at spreading disinformation about Ukraine's government, sowing division between the U.S. and Ukraine, and slowing down the process of Ukraine's accession to the EU and NATO.

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More than $10 million was funneled into the scheme, the SBU said.

Earlier on Nov. 13, Ukrainska Pravda reported that Ukrainian law enforcement agencies were allegedly searching Dubinskyi's premises in connection to a case of a "criminal organization to discredit the image of Ukraine on the international stage."

Ukrainska Pravda claimed that the current case is related to a disinformation campaign involving both Dubinskyi and Derkach, which reached the highest levels of the Ukrainian and American governments.

Dubinskyi and Derkach pushed conspiracy theories that involved Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, who sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, as well as Mykola Zlochevskyi, the company's founder and a former minister under former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

They repeated the claims elsewhere as well. The allegations that either President Biden or his son were involved in unlawful actions associated with Burisma have been widely debunked.

Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said at the time that the charges were "not credible" and that Dubinskyi and Derkach were "professional disinformers."

The conspiracies then went viral in the U.S. in the leadup to the 2020 presidential election, fueled in part by a wider campaign among political opponents of Biden who sought to use his son's activities in Ukraine against him.

Derkach and Dubinskyi were later sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2021 for their work with Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer of former President Donald Trump, to undermine Biden's presidential campaign.

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The U.S. Treasury said that Derkach was "acting as an agent of the Russian intelligence services" and, along with Dubinskyi and three other former Ukrainian officials, worked together on a scheme that "coordinated dissemination and promotion of fraudulent and unsubstantiated allegations involving a U.S. political candidate (Biden)."

The conspiracy theories involving Biden and his son were the center of the political scandal that resulted in Trump's first impeachment charge, in which he allegedly threatened President Volodymyr Zelensky in July 2019 that he would cut off aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky initiated an investigation into Biden and his son.

Despite the political scandals and subsequent sanctions from the U.S., Dubinskyi remained in office. He is currently an independent MP, having been removed from President Volodymyr Zelensky's Servant of the People party in 2021 for "violating the statute and disobeying the party's governing bodies."

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