Ukraine’s Poroshenko sues BBC over Trump pay-for-access story as election looms

Ukraine’s Poroshenko sues BBC over Trump pay-for-access story as election looms
The president of Ukraine is suing British broadcaster BBC over a report that he paid $400,000 for a chance to meet Donald Trump. The news comes months before presidential election, which is set to be tough for Petro Poroshenko.

The BBC report, which Poroshenko’s lawyers claim was defamatory, came in May and said that the meeting between the leader of Ukraine and the US president in June 2017 was organized in a pretty roundabout way. The Ukrainian side paid Michael Cohen, then-the personal lawyer of Trump, at least $400,000 for an embarrassingly short two minutes and a handshake. The best the Ukrainian diplomats and registered lobbyist could have arranged at the time was reportedly a brief photo-op with the US president.

The lawsuit filed with London High Court, which was first reported by the Daily Telegraph, claims that the story of the pay-off was not true and stressed that BBC’s failure to retract it was particularly damaging to Poroshenko’s anti-corruption effort in Ukraine. Poroshenko’s lawyer confirmed the report to RT.

At the time, Poroshenko’s meeting with Trump (well before the freshly-elect US president met Russia’s Vladimir Putin!) was presented as “talks” and milked by his administration for political points at home. The impression was only somewhat spoiled by the aftermath, when the Ukrainian president had to give a press conference outside of the White House and without his host.

The BBC report is hardly the only spot on Poroshenko’s reputation. He was famously exposed as an avid user of offshore firms, when his name became one of several featured in the Panama Papers reporting in 2016. His sacking as the head of the National Security and Defense Council in 2005 was due to accusations of widespread corruption and nepotism against his team. As president, Poroshenko failed to deliver on some key promises made during election, including to sell a major TV news channel he owns.

The Ukrainian president is currently in a perilous position, with next election scheduled for March 31 next year and his approval rating of 7.9 percent posing a risk that he would not even be able to make it to the second round. His long-time political rival and veteran political shark Yulia Tymoshenko leads in the race at the moment with 14.9 percent approval, and there is little doubt that her victory could be disastrous for Poroshenko and his business interests in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president’s campaign seems to be focusing on attempts to capitalize on whatever publicity that his office and influence in the media can produce. There is hardly a day when Poroshenko doesn’t deliver a speech about his successes and the bright future of Ukraine.

The occasions for such speeches may be as trivial as opening an elementary school after repair or a new short road. According to a UNIAN news agency tally, as of end of August the Ukrainian president took part in 98 ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

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