Two Soviet-born businessmen whom U.S. Donald Trump’s personal attorney has publicly identified as his clients sought to reshuffle management at Ukraine’s state-owned oil and gas conglomerate in their favor as they pursued liquified natural-gas projects, AP reported.
The news agency, citing anonymous sources and a memo written to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said the two Florida-based entrepreneurs had also arranged meetings with Ukrainian officials for the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as he investigated Trump’s political and potential electoral rivals.
AP identified the two as Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both of whom have contributed generously to Trump’s as well as Republican campaigns, ensuring them meetings with the U.S. president, his son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as Republican lawmakers in recent years, according to a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
Parnas and Fruman, along with oil magnate Harry Sargeant III, were allegedly behind a plan to unseat Naftogaz Group CEO Andriy Kobolev and replace him with Andrew Favorov, a Russian-born American citizen who has a track record in the oil and gas industry.
Favorov told a former U.S. business partner in the energy industry that he perceived the meeting with the three as a perceived "shakedown," AP reported.
Parnas, Fruman, and Sargeant didn’t provide comments to AP.
Their endeavor was to allegedly obtain favorable conditions to sell U.S. liquified natural gas to Ukraine, AP reported.
Parnas had also sought to replace then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch “with someone more open to aiding their business interests,” AP said, citing American Dale Perry who has business agreements to import natural gas and electricity to Ukraine.
Parnas came to the United States when he was 4 years old, while Fruman arrived as a young adult in the 1980s, but later moved to Ukraine and established a series of businesses, according to OCCRP.
Combined, they have contributed more than $500,000 to Republican campaigns, including a fund associated with Trump.
The news comes as three congressional committees are investigating Trump in an impeachment probe related to a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
During the call, according to a government whistle-blower complaint, Trump had allegedly asked Zelenskiy for help in investigating Joe Biden, a promising presidential candidate for next year’s election, as well as his son, Hunter, for his involvement with a Ukrainian energy firm.
The House of Representatives issued a summons for Parnas to be deposed on October 10 and Fruman the following day as part of the impeachment inquiry.