KYIV -- Anti-corruption investigators have opened a probe of former Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, who is tied to the spiraling scandal over whether U.S. President Donald Trump sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate one of his chief political rivals.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) said in a statement on October 17 that the investigation was opened in mid-August, prior to Lutsenko's resignation, and was made in response to a Kyiv court ruling ordering the probe.
The probe, which relates to allegations of abuse of power by Lutsenko, does not appear to have a direct link to the larger, U.S.-focused scandal that Lutsenko is connected to.
The scandal, which has led to the U.S. House of Representatives opening an impeachment inquiry, focuses on whether Trump sought to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma Holdings.
The company's board included Hunter Biden, the son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The company and its owner, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman, had been the focus of several tax and criminal investigations in the past.
Trump and his allies allege that Biden, when he was vice president, sought to pressure Ukraine to fire Lutsenko's predecessor, Viktor Shokin, as a way to end an investigation of Burisma, and Hunter Biden. Shokin was later dismissed by parliament.
However, Lutsenko said the criminal investigation into Burisma was dormant at the time of Shokin's firing.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden. Joe Biden's call for Shokin's firing was shared by other European allies.
In a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy, Trump suggested that Zelenskiy should investigate the Bidens, and appeared to condition U.S. aid to Ukraine on Zelenskiy pushing such investigations. Zelenskiy told reporters in Kyiv on October 10 that he didn't believe the Trump request amounted to "blackmail."
Lutsenko met with Rudy Giuliani at least twice this year. Giuliani, a Trump ally who later became the president's personal attorney, has been accused of running a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine for Trump's personal political benefit. Trump has denied the accusations.
Lutsenko also made false allegations, which he later retracted, as part of an effort to force out then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
She was recalled prematurely from her post in Kyiv, and later told a congressional committee that she was forced out because of "unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives."
Lutsenko is also widely believed to be the unnamed Ukrainian government official who appears in the indictment, unsealed on October 10, of two Soviet-born, U.S. businessmen charged with violating U.S. campaign-financing laws. The two allegedly worked on behalf of Lutsenko as part of the campaign to force out Yovanovitch.
NABU was formed by Ukrainian lawmakers in the wake of the 2014 Euromaidan protests, as a condition for securing badly needed Western financial aid.
But the agency, which is independent of the Prosecutor-General's Office, has struggled in the face of powerful Ukrainian politicians and entrenched corrupt interests in government and business.