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Ukraine shakeup may derail Manafort-linked cases

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on November 1, 2019 - Duration: 02:08s

Ukraine shakeup may derail Manafort-linked cases

A massive restructuring of Ukraine's General Prosecutor's Office may add fuel to a fire raging 8,000 miles away in Washington: the Trump impeachment probe.

Matthew Larotonda reports.

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Ukraine shakeup may derail Manafort-linked cases

A massive shakeup of Ukraine's General Prosecutor's Office could make waves almost 8,000 miles away in Washington.

It was ordered by the country's anti-establishment president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

But three current and former Ukrainian prosecutors have told Reuters that the decision may force some ongoing investigations in Ukraine to effectively close, including two linked to U.S. President Trump's former campaign chairman: Paul Manafort.

And that could add fuel to the impeachment fire raging on Capitol Hill.

Here's the background: For five years the General Prosecutor's Office, or GPO, has been looking into allegations of corruption from the time of Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovich.

Yanukovich came from a pro-Russian political party -- the same pro-Russian political party that American prosecutors say funnelled money to Manafort.

Now Zelenskiy's government has ordered the GPO to transfer all ongoing investigations -- including the Manafort cases -- to other law enforcement agencies.

It's also fired over 200 attorneys there.

The issue is that some of those corruption cases are so complex though that, according to the prosecutors, it's not really possible to hand them off.

They say it would create a backlog so big cases will sit in limbo indefinitely, effectively killing the investigations.

They're calling it a power grab.

So why is President Zelenskiy doing this?

He sees the GPO as part of Ukraine's corruption problem, and believes it was misused in the past as a political tool.

The GPO is also distrusted by most citizens.

Zelenskiy ordered all prosecutors to take a new legal test.

Some failed.

Others refused to take it, hence all the firings.

His administration says the handover of cases will be a smooth transition, and it's dismissed the fired prosecutors' fears as an invented crisis.

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