Ukraine froze Manafort probes amid US weapons sales: report

Source: The Hill | May 2, 2018 | Max Greenwood

Ukraine’s chief prosecutor froze four pending investigations into President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort as the U.S. finalized a weapons sale to the Eastern European country.

Those cases were put into the “long-term box,” one Ukrainian lawmaker, Volodymyr Ariev, told The New York Times, so as to avoid upsetting President Trump, who has bristled publicly and privately at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,” Ariev told the Times. “We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.”

The decision to halt the investigations came shortly after the U.S. approved the sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 35 launching units to the Ukrainian government, the Times reported. 

The move shows how Ukraine, a country heavily reliant on U.S. assistance, has sought to avoid activities that could irritate Trump. The country receives about $600 million annually in direct aid from the U.S.

The four investigations involving Manafort were initially among roughly 3,000 cases opened by special prosecutor Serhiy Horbatyuk, who is probing alleged corruption in the administration of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014.

The investigations involving Manafort hinged on his consulting work for Yanukovych and his political party.

In April, however, shortly after the Pentagon gave final approval for the weapons sale, an order was issued to effectively halt the Manafort investigations. Horbatyuk told the Times that the order did not end the probes, but barred him from issuing subpoenas or conducting witness interviews. 

“We have no authority to continue our investigation,” he said. 

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