Ukrainian Oligarch Defends $150,000 Payment To Trump Foundation
Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk’s foundation on Thursday defended a $150,000 (120,000 euros) payment to Donald Trump’s foundation that is being investigated by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The payment for a 2015 speech by the then-presidential candidate is being probed as part of Mueller’s investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, The New York Times reported.
The Victor Pinchuk Foundation confirmed that it had paid the sum, “the amount requested by the Trump Foundation”, for Trump to give a 20-minute talk via video link at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference in Kiev in September 2015.
Spokeswoman Natalia Vovk said in a written statement to AFP that “the sole reason” the Pinchuk Foundation reached out to Trump was to “promote strengthened and enduring ties between Ukraine and the West”.
“Inviting international leaders to Ukraine to connect Ukraine with Europe and the world is a core activity of YES,” she said.
“The foundation was not contacted by representatives of Mueller.”
Trump criticised then-president Barack Obama in the speech, in particular the White House’s policies on Ukraine and Russia.
On Wednesday, Trump dismissed the report on Twitter, calling it “another phony story” by the “Failing New York Times”.
“It was political pundit Doug Schoen, not a Ukrainian businessman, who asked me to do a short speech by phone (Skype), hosted by Doug, in Ukraine,” he tweeted.
But the New York Times had reported that Schoen, who according to media reports has consulted with the Pinchuk foundation, set up the speech, as Vovk confirmed: “Both the New York Times and President Trump’s tweet are correct”.
The annual conference has previously featured prominent global figures such as former US president Bill Clinton, former British prime minister Tony Blair and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Steel magnate Pinchuk is the fourth richest man in Ukraine, according to Forbes magazine. The New York Times report said he had donated more than $13 million to the Clinton foundation since 2006.