American diplomats told to play down release of aid to Ukraine: report

Source: The Hill | October 9, 2019 | Rachel Frazin

The Trump administration encouraged U.S. diplomats who pushed for the restoration of military aid to Ukraine to play down the money’s release when it was approved, The New York Times reported Wednesday. 

Brad Freden, the State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary overseeing issues in Europe and Eurasia, said in an email obtained by The Times that the National Security Council wouldn’t publicly announce that $141 million in State Department aid was being restored after it was initially withheld. 

“Keep moving, people, nothing to see here …” Freden reportedly said in the Sept. 12 email, according to the Times. 

The emails show internal frustration with the freeze in aid that had been already been approved by Congress. 

“We realize the strain this puts on posts and your ability to conclude grants and carry out programs,” State Department Regional Assistance Coordinator Jim Kulikowski,  reportedly wrote in an Aug. 5 message

“We currently await further guidance and will provide you with an update as soon as we know about next steps,” he reportedly added in the email to department employees, including diplomats in Kiev. 

Officials were told that the money was being released in a Sept. 12 email from the White House that was circulated within the State Department, the Times reported. 

“Apparently, and I don’t have full visibility, decision made last night,” Kulikowski reportedly wrote.

Freden then reportedly said Ukraine’s government knew the funds would be released, but told State Department officials not to announce the matter.  

“Ukrainians are aware, but N.S.C. said that in the spirit of the ‘hold’ being a normal review, there will be no public announcement that it has been lifted,” he wrote, referring to the president’s National Security Council, according to The Times. 

Freden also advised William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy in Ukraine, to keep the release of the funds “low-key,” according to the Times.

“In terms of public messaging, N.S.C. is deliberately treating both the hold and its lifting as administrative matters,” Freden reportedly told Taylor. “My advice is to keep your public messaging low-key as well.”

“Good advice — thanks,” Taylor reportedly responded.

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