KYIV — Ukrainian authorities announced a probe Thursday, Jan. 16, into the possible surveillance overseas of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch that a critic claimed to have orchestrated from the United States before President Donald Trump dismissed her from the post.
The statement by Ukraine's Interior Ministry followed the disclosure of new documents related to the impeachment case against Trump. The material included exchanges between Lev Parnas, a then-associate of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and others about the need to oust Yovanovitch.
The documents - provided to the House Intelligence Committee by Parnas - include messages with Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress. In those exchanges, Parnas was informed about Yovanovitch's physical location.
The disclosures have opened a new front in Trump's impeachment woes, while dragging Ukraine back into the spotlight six months since the controversial call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky. To this point, Ukrainian officials had been careful not to criticize their most powerful Western allies, but "Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities" on its territory, the Interior Ministry statement said.
FBI agents on Thursday visited Hyde's home and business in Connecticut, an official familiar with the case said, though the exact nature of their activities could not immediately be determined.
The development was first reported by CNN. Hyde did not return messages seeking comment Thursday.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan already had the messages from Hyde in their possession; it was only after they gave them back to Parnas as part of the criminal case against him that Parnas then turned them over to U.S. lawmakers.
Neighbors to Hyde's home and business said they saw no obvious indications that an FBI search was being executed. A spokesman for the bureau declined to comment.
In an interview with MSNBC that aired Wednesday, Parnas said he did not take Hyde's claims seriously. Parnas and other Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, were arrested in October at Dulles International Airport and charged with attempts to funnel foreign money to U.S. politicians.
The Interior Ministry statement said Ukrainian police "are not interfering in the internal political affairs of the United States."
"However, the published messages contain facts of possible violations of Ukrainian law and of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which protect the rights of diplomats on the territory of another state," the statement continued.
House Democrats have demanded the State Department's cooperation in determining whether anyone inside the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv disclosed real-time information about Yovanovitch's movements. In a letter Wednesday seeking any relevant internal documents, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, indicated his staff had been assured by the department's head of diplomatic security that officials there would investigate and share their findings with the Justice Department and FBI.
State Department officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a separate probe, Ukraine investigators said they were looking into a suspected Russian hack into computers at Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiries.
Trump is alleged to have withheld military aid to Ukraine as possible leverage to open a probe into alleged corruption at Burisma. Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, had served on the Burisma board.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov met Thursday with an FBI representative based in Ukraine and officially requested U.S. assistance in the two cases, according to a Ukraine government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing investigations.
In the WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Hyde, the latter suggests he's in contact with individuals in Ukraine who were monitoring Yavonovitch's movements.
"They are willing to help if we/you would like a price," Hyde writes to Parnas in one message. He then added, "Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money. . . what I was told."
Hyde, who told Parnas he was with a "private security" team in Kyiv, was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital last year after police were called to Trump's Doral resort outside Miami, police and court records show. Doral police said Hyde insisted his life was in danger and that he believed painters and landscape workers were trying to harm him.
One week after the incident in Doral, a 34-year-old political consultant obtained a temporary protection order against Hyde because of "constant harassment and stalking," according to records in Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The consultant alleged that several incidents occurred at the Trump International Hotel in the District.
On Wednesday, Hyde suggested in a television interview that he was joking in his WhatsApp messages to Parnas. Asked by Eric Bolling of the Sinclair Broadcast Group whether he had monitored Yovanovitch, Hyde said: "Absolutely not. You kidding me?"
In November, Yovanovitch told the House Intelligence Committee that she believed Giuliani and others conducted a "smear campaign" against her. Yovanovitch was ordered back to Washington by the State Department in April.
Trump, in his July 25 call with Zelensky, described Yovanovitch was "bad news" and said she would be "going to go through some things" in Washington.
This article was written by Isabelle Khurshudyan, a reporter for The Washington Post. Khurshudyan reported from Moscow.