Following the cast of characters in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump is daunting, particularly when trying to figure out who’s who on the Ukrainian side. To help make things easier, here’s a snapshot guide to the main players.
Volodymyr Zelensky — President of Ukraine. Zelensky won a landslide presidential election in April with 73% of the vote, defeating incumbent Petro Poroshenko. A political novice, Zelensky is a former comedian. He starred in “Servant of the People,” a popular television show in which he played a schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president. He had been in office just two months when he received the now infamous July 25 phone call from Trump that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Andriy Yermak — Top advisor to Zelensky. Yermak met with Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on several occasions after Zelensky’s election in late April. Yermak said that during the meetings, he became concerned that the Trump administration’s perceptions of Ukraine were not favorable or accurate. Yermak’s text exchanges with Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine; Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union; and acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr., in which the advisor tried to arrange a meeting between Zelensky and Trump, were released as part of the impeachment inquiry.
Yuri Lutsenko — Ukrainian prosecutor general from May 2016 to August 2019. Lutsenko fed information to Giuliani in early 2019 that helped fuel Trump’s conspiracy theories that former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was involved in nefarious dealings with a Ukrainian gas company, as well as the idea that Ukraine had colluded with Democrats in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Lutsenko’s animosity toward former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was also shared with Giuliani and appeared to stem from her criticism of his office’s lack of progress fighting corruption. His comments about Yovanovitch may have contributed to Trump’s decision to recall the diplomat. In the July 25 call, Trump appeared to praise Lutsenko, saying he was “very good” but was “shut down” by “bad people.” A close ally of former President Petro Poroshenko, Lutsenko was fired by Zelensky shortly after the newly elected president took office. In early October, Ukraine opened an investigation into Lutsenko’s possible abuse of power.
Viktor Shokin — Ukrainian prosecutor general from February 2015 to March 2016. Shokin was seen as lax in the pursuit of corruption cases, leading to Biden’s push for his removal in 2016. That call was backed by other international donors to Ukraine. Shokin filed an affidavit with an Austrian court in defense of oligarch Dmytri Firtash, who is fighting extradition to the U.S. to face bribery charges. In the affidavit, Shokin wrote that Biden had warned the Ukrainian government to keep Firtash out of Ukraine so the tycoon wouldn’t further influence the country’s politics. The affidavit also stated that Poroshenko dismissed Shokin because he was investigating the Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden was a member of the board of directors. However, there is no evidence that Ukraine was investigating either of the Bidens at the time of Shokin’s dismissal.
Dmytri Firtash — A Ukrainian oligarch fighting U.S. extradition charges in Vienna. A U.S. District Court indicted Firtash in 2013 on bribery and racketeering charges stemming from allegations that he paid bribes to Indian officials in a titanium deal. Firtash made his fortune selling Russian and Central Asian gas to Ukraine. His business interests include titanium, metals, chemicals and media. He financially backed pro-Russia political parties in Ukraine, had business ties with former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and claims that the U.S. charges against him are politically motivated.
Lev Parnas — A Ukrainian-born American businessman who worked as a fixer for Giuliani in the pursuit of a disinformation campaign that included the idea that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Parnas is one of two Giuliani associates arrested this month on charges stemming from alleged efforts to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections. Parnas acted as a translator for Firtash’s team of American lawyers.
Igor Fruman — Born in Soviet Belarus, Fruman is a Florida-based businessman who was arrested along with Parnas on charges he invested foreign money in U.S. political campaigns. He is an associate of Giuliani and worked with Parnas to try to broker deals that included a proposal to bring American government officials to Zelensky’s inauguration for $250,000.
Ihor Kolomoisky — Ukrainian billionaire who made his fortune in banking, metals, oil and mass media. Kolomoisky’s television channel aired the popular sitcom starring Zelensky before he entered politics early last year. Kolomoisky’s close business ties to Zelensky have raised alarms for some Western governments, who fear the new president’s independence may be compromised by the oligarch. So far, there is no evidence that is true. Kolomoisky said in an interview with the Ukrainian Truth news website in May that Giuliani was trying to push a conspiracy against Joe Biden that would embroil Ukraine in a U.S. political scandal. Kolomoisky’s comments came after he said Giuliani’s associates, Parnas and Fruman, “demanded” he set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky. Kolomoisky said he threw the men out of his office.
Andriy Bohdan — Zelensky’s chief of staff. Bohdan has close ties to Kolomoisky, for whom he was a personal lawyer.
Mykola Zlochevsky — Ukrainian businessman and former government minister behind the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Hunter Biden served on Burisma’s board of directors, which has been at the heart of Trump’s allegation of corruption. Zlochevsky and Burisma have both been the subjects of various corruption investigations, but no formal charges have been brought. There is no evidence that any investigations into Hunter Biden’s affiliation with Burisma or Zlochevsky have been opened in Ukraine.
Sergei Leshchenko — Former lawmaker and investigative journalist. In 2016, Leshchenko revealed the existence of payments made to Manafort by a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Manafort was later convicted of charges related to money laundering in part because of the work he did in Ukraine. Giuliani accused Leshchenko of trying to undermine Trump by colluding with the Democrats in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, calling the young lawmaker an “enemy of the president of the United States.” Leshchenko was in consideration for a top position in the Ukrainian president’s new administration at the time but subsequently dropped his application to avoid jeopardizing relations with the White House.