At a sensitive moment that Trump-Ukraine dealings are being spotlighted in US politics and just before Senate impeachment proceedings move forward which the president has called a "hoax" — it just so happens that explosive wiretap recordings of top Ukrainian government officials are being mysteriously released to shake up the Zelensky administration.
No less than Ukraine's prime minister has resigned after he was caught on an audio recording allegedly making disparaging comments about Zelensky's ability to understand and form economic policy. According to the bombshell WSJ report Friday:
Ukraine’s prime minister tendered his resignation following the release of an audio recording in which he appeared to make disparaging comments about President Volodymyr Zelensky’s understanding of economics.
Mr. Zelensky’s office said the president is considering the resignation of Oleksiy Honcharuk, who has been in office since August.
Honcharuk is allegedly caught in the recording saying his boss President Zelensky “has a very primitive understanding of economic processes.” The alleged recording surfaced earlier this week and immediately sparked controversy; however, it remains unclear as to the ultimate source of the audio's creation and leak.
PM Honcharuk affirmed it is his voice on the audio, but suggested it was heavily edited to create a false impression. He said it was different dialogue from multiple government meetings strung together to present a falsehood, according to the WSJ.
No decision yet from Zelensky on Honcharuk’s resignation. But he’s ordered Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to investigate how confidential government meetings were recorded and then leaked online. He gave a two-week deadline. https://t.co/3rfmPMEt8P— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) January 17, 2020
President Zelensky appears to be withholding judgement for now, and has reportedly ordered security services to investigate the origins of the tape, as well as how it was leaked online. The president has reportedly issued a two week deadline for Ukrainian law enforcement to the get to the bottom of it.
Honcharuk, himself relatively politically inexperienced like his boss former comedian Zelensky, was tasked with rooting out corruption in a country considered among Europe's most endemically corrupt governments. He suggested Friday while tendering his resignation (Zelensky has initially rejected the resignation) that this is likely the work of his political enemies who hide "in the shadows".
Per the WSJ, Honcharuk said:
“Unfortunately, in a few months it is quite difficult to destroy criminal schemes that have been in place for decades,” he wrote. “Our opponents are accustomed to living in the shadows.”
The now embattled prime minister, seen as a key anti-corruption reformer, assisted in Ukraine's securing tentative approval for $5.5 billion in loans from the IMF in December.
Ukraine’s reformers do the right thing again. After some dirty antireformer tries to expose PM Honcharuk with a mildly embarrassing tape recording, Honcharuk correctly offered his resignation & @ZelenskyyUa rightly turned it down. Well done!— Anders Åslund (@anders_aslund) January 17, 2020
Curiously, the WSJ report offers no suggestions as to the origins of the audio which swiftly brought Honcharuk down this week, but it obviously comes in a pressurized and explosive context for Kiev when both Western and Ukrainian domestic intelligence are no doubt scrambling to dig up information in the wake of the dramatic impeachment proceedings as well as Trump's public accusations of Joe Biden and the Burisma affair.
So the question remains: in light of this mysterious wiretap and audio, are we perhaps witnessing yet more Washington deep state maneuvering in Ukraine?