Biden investigation not raised during 2017 meeting, former Ukrainian president says

Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko, said he had conversations with U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer two years ago, but the possibility of investigating former vice-president Joe Biden’s son was not raised.

Petro Poroshenko met Rudy Giuliani in the fall of 2017

Then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, left, poses with Rudy Giuliani during their meeting in Kyiv on Nov. 22, 2017. (Mikhail Palinchak/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service Pool via AP)

Ukraine's former president had conversations with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer two years ago, but Petro Poroshenko said no one raised the possibility of investigating former vice-president Joe Biden's son.

The conversation with Rudy Giuliani, instead, focused on cybersecurity and reforms in the financial sector, Poroshenko told an international security forum in Halifax on Sunday.

It was a carefully-worded response in a question-and answer-session.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal, quoting unnamed sources, reported that two associates of Giuliani were the ones who asked Poroshenko while he was still in office for the investigation into Biden — Trump's  Democratic rival — as well as his son, Hunter Biden.

The former Ukrainian president ultimately did not order such an investigation.

At the heart of the U.S. impeachment inquiry is the allegation that Trump, for his own political purposes, leaned on Poroshenko's successor, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate the Bidens, specifically Hunter Biden's directorship on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

U.S. President Trump, right, allegedly leaned on Volodymyr Zelensky, left, to investigate Joe Biden's family, specifically Hunter Biden's directorship on the Burisma board. (Sean Gallup, Tom Brenner, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Allegations of corruption involving Ukrainian natural gas giant Burisma and Hunter Biden's presence on the board was not something they discussed, Poroshenko said of his meeting with Giuliani. He suggested it would not have been something he would have tolerated during his time.

"Look, I'm the president of Ukraine, the great European nation, the great European country; the biggest [in terms of] territory in Europe and definitely I cannot imagine this type of talks with me as the president of Ukraine," he said during a brief question and answer session in Halifax.

'Don't trust Putin'

For the most part, the former Ukrainian president skirted the raging political fire in Washington. He did say that the internal political struggle between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. has nothing to do with the pressing issues that face Ukraine, including the bloody five-year-old war with Russian-back separatists in the eastern districts of the country, and Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

Poroshenko also said he met with Trump at the White House and suggested U.S. domestic politics never entered the conversation.

His country, he said, has enjoyed solid bipartisan support in both the United States and Canada, adding: "We need the unity of the whole free world." 

Poroshenko, former president of Ukraine, speaks at a session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax. Poroshenko said investigating Hunter Biden was never raised with Rudy Giuliani during his time as president. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The real winner throughout the American political crisis has been Russian President Vladimir Putin, Poroshenko said.

"Don't allow Putin to destabilize us. And by the way, I have a unique almost six years experience in communication with Putin. My strong piece of advice — please don't trust Putin."

Central to allegations against Trump is the withholding of $400 million US in military aid to Ukraine. During a phone call with Zelensky, the U.S. president allegedly made the sale of further Javelin anti-tank missiles conditional on the Ukrainian leader doing him a "favour" by investigating the Bidens.

The aid, including counter-artillery battery radar, night-vision gear and patrol boats, has since been unfrozen and is making a real difference to Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern districts.

But it is the Javelin which appears to be a game-changer, Ukraine's defence minister told CBC News.

"In certain areas, they can make a critical difference," said Andriy Zagorodnyuk.

Russians tanks and mobile artillery have stopped appearing in areas where the highly accurate missile system is deployed.

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And that, in turn, has helped reduce Ukrainian casualties, Poroshenko told delegates to the security conference.

Zagorodnyuk said a pull-back by government and separatists forces at three points along the front line has taken place and sets the stage for an upcoming meeting of the Normandy Contact Group, which includes Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France.

"It's a pretty significant step," he said of the disengagement. "More importantly it gets us to the point where we can sit down and talk."

Whether those talks lead to the full implementation of the Minsk peace deal is another question because Zagorodnyuk said he doesn't see much interest "on the other side" for an end to the conflict which has raged for five years and claimed as many as 13,000 lives.