Businessmen linked with Trump, Giuliani tried to change leadership of Naftogaz – media
A group of persons linked with U.S. President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy (Rudolph) Giuliani attempted to change the leadership of Ukraine's fuel and gas company NJSC Naftogaz Ukrainy, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Sunday.
"This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine's massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies," AP said, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.
According to AP, three businessmen, two from the former USSR, Lev Parnas and Igor Furman, and an oil magnate from Boca Raton, Florida, named Harry Sargeant III.
The plan of the businessmen was to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolev with Naftogaz top manager Andriy Favorov.
The plan was abandoned due to the victory of President Volodymyr Zelensky over incumbent Petro Poroshenko in the 2019 presidential election.
Later, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry took steps to change the management of Naftogaz, the article says.
The article says in is not known whether Perry's attempt to change the board of directors of Naftogaz was agreed with Giuliani's associates, who insisted on a similar outcome.
However, according to AP, businessmen trying to change leadership at the state gas company seemed to know about the Trump administration's plans for Ukraine.
According to three agency sources, they knew that the president would replace the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch a few months before she was actually recalled to Washington.
Earlier, the agency, citing sources, said that on Friday Trump told the Republicans in the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress that it was Perry who asked him to contact Zelensky by phone.
"Secretary Perry absolutely supported and encouraged the president to speak to the new president of Ukraine to discuss matters related to their energy security and economic development," Perry's Energy Department spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, said in an email.
According to her, Perry did not advance anyone's personal interests. She said that his conversations with Ukrainian officials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country's energy sector and create the conditions under which Western companies can do business.
The White House previously published a transcript of Trump's conversation with Zelensky. Interest in the American president's conversations with foreign leaders has intensified in the media after the Democrats accused Trump of exerting pressure on the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The House of Representatives believed that Trump had abused power to fight against a political opponent, and launched an impeachment inquiry.