Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will leave her position on May 20, some two months ahead of the end of her tenure, the Ukrainian media and the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported earlier this week, citing sources within the American embassy in Kiev.
Although no announcement about the ambassador’s dismissal was made public yet, the news has already drawn attention of some prominent Democrats in the Congress, who rushed to declare the development to be part of President Donald Trump’s political games.
"The White House’s outrageous decision to recall her is a political hit job and the latest in this Administration’s campaign against career State Department personnel,”said Eliot Engel (D-New York), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) in a statement on Tuesday, adding that it is “clear that this decision was politically motivated.”
Both Democrats also claimed that the ambassador’s premature dismissal would amount to “harming American interests and undermining American diplomacy” at a particularly important period of transition of power in Ukraine.
Yovanovitch, who took the post of the ambassador back in 2016 under the Obama administration, does not have a particularly flawless service record, as just over a month ago she found herself at the center of a scandal after Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yury Lutsenko told The Hill that the ambassador actually gave him “a list of people whom we should not prosecute” during their first meeting.
At that time, the US State Department branded his claim “an outright fabrication.” However, several weeks before the prosecutor’s claim, Yovanovitch, bluntly called on Ukraine to sack its special anticorruption prosecutor in one of her speeches, in which she described the results of Kiev’s anti-corruption reforms in scathing terms.
Lutsenko backtracked on the claim of an actual “do-not-prosecute list” but told the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency that Yovanovitch was extremely vocal in her defense of several Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, who themselves were under investigation.
“I listed some so-called anti-corruption activists under investigation. She said it was unacceptable, as it would undermine the credibility of anti-corruption activists,” Lutsenko told UNIAN. “I took a piece of paper, put down the listed names and said: 'Give me a do not prosecute list.' She said: "No, you got me wrong.' I said: "No, I didn't get you wrong.”
It is unclear if this scandal contributed to the White House’s decision to sack the ambassador. The State Department said on Monday that Yovanovitch was “concluding her 3-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned.”
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