KIEV (Reuters) – Sweeping changes to Ukraine’s top law enforcement agency ordered by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy are set to derail a series of long-running criminal investigations, including two related to U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, three current and former Ukrainian prosecutors told Reuters.
The reorganization, which includes fresh leadership for the agency and mandatory skills testing for prosecutors, represents an upheaval of Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO), one of the most powerful bodies in the country, and one that has long been the target of criticism.
Zelenskiy, who came to power in May, has said the makeover is essential because the office is widely distrusted by Ukrainians and has been seen as a political tool for the well-connected to punish their enemies.
The overhaul, which began in October, comes amid widespread scrutiny of the agency following efforts by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to get Ukraine to open an investigation into the Republican president’s political rival – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden – and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Plans to shake up the GPO played a role in a July 25 phone call between Zelenskiy and Trump that is now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into the U.S. president. On that call, Zelenskiy told Trump he was installing a new head at the agency who would be “100% my person, my candidate” and who “will look into the situation” regarding the Bidens.
New Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka took office at the end of August. Under his leadership, the GPO is preparing to transfer all existing investigations to other law enforcement agencies, a process the GPO told Reuters would begin Nov. 20.