: Ukraine's leaders campaign against ‘pro-Putin' Trump - FT

10:55 Aug. 30, 2016

Ukraine's leaders campaign against ‘pro-Putin' Trump - FT

Presidential candidate Donald Trump with his advisor Paul Manafort in the background (Getty Images)

Fears over effect Republican's victory would have on US policy towards Kyiv

For years, Serhiy Leshchenko, a top Ukrainian anti-corruption campaigner, worked to expose kleptocracy under former president Viktor Yanukovych. Now, he is focusing on a new perceived pro-Russian threat to Ukraine: US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The prospect of Mr Trump, who has praised Ukraine's arch-enemy Vladimir Putin, becoming leader of the country's biggest ally has spurred not just Mr Leshchenko but Kiev's wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before: intervene, however indirectly, in a US election.

Read also Expert Analysis: Ukraine strongly concerned of possible Russia's hand in US politics

Mr Leshchenko and Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau published a secret ledger this month that authorities claim show millions of dollars of off-the-book cash payments to Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's campaign director, while he was advising Mr Yanukovich's Regions party from 2005.

Mr Manafort, who vigorously denies wrongdoing, subsequently resigned from his campaign role. But Mr Leshchenko and other political actors in Kyiv say they will continue their efforts to prevent a candidate — who recently suggested Russia might keep Crimea, which it annexed two years ago — from reaching the summit of American political power.

"A Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy," Mr Leshchenko, an investigative journalist turned MP, told the Financial Times. "For me it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world."

Mr Trump's rise has led to a new cleavage in Ukraine's political establishment. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, is backed by the pro-western government that took power after Mr Yanukovych was ousted by street protests in 2014. The former Yanukovich camp, its public support sharply diminished, leans towards Mr Trump.

If the Republican candidate loses in November, some observers suggest Kyiv's actions may have played at least a small role.

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