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Anatomy of an Ukraine prosecutor’s ouster: the Joe and Hunter Biden timeline

Here is the timeline of events that led to the dismissal of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

Published: August 24, 2023 1:59am

For four years the American public was assured that when then-Vice President Joe Biden forced the firing of Ukraine’s chief prosecutor by withholding $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees in late 2015 that he was simply carrying out U.S. policy constructed by career officials.

At the time, the prosecutor was investigating the Burisma Holdings energy firm that was paying Hunter Biden $1 million a year to be on its board. Democrats have argued since 2019 that the firing of the prosecutor had nothing to do with Burisma.

This week, Just the News released official government memos showing that U.S. policy in fact was the opposite of what Joe Biden did and that the vice president was actually urged to give Ukraine the $1 billion in loan guarantees because U.S. officials believe the prosecutor had made adequate progress in the fight against corruption.

The scores of documents that Just the News obtain from FOIA litigation, House and Senate investigators and U.S. government officials chronicle that story.

Here is the timeline of events that led to the dismissal of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

June 11, 2015: 

Current Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, then the State Department’s lead official on Ukraine, sent a letter to Viktor Shokin – the Ukrainian prosecutor general – on behalf of then-Secretary of State John Kerry congratulating Shokin and suggesting they were “impressed” about the job he was doing on corruption reform.

Sept. 24, 2015: 

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt delivered remarks at the Odesa Financial Forum in Odesa, Ukraine. In his speech, he focused on the “tenacious enemy dead set on undermining Ukraine’s economic success,” corruption. The ambassador called out Mykola Zlochevsky, the former Ecology minister of Ukraine and owner of Burisma, for corruption and lambasted the special treatment he received by the Prosecutor General’s office under Shokin’s predecessor. 

Sept. 30, 2015: 

The Interagency Policy Committee (IPC) - a federal task force advising the White House in Ukraine -/ affirmed that Shokin’s reform effort – including the creation of a new independent inspector general watchdog to police prosecutors’ behavior – was advancing enough to warrant the new loan guarantee. “Ukraine has made sufficient progress on its reform agenda to justify a third guarantee,” the memo, sent out on Oct. 1, 2015, summarized. 

Sept. 30, 2015: 

Paul Sonne, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) correspondent based out of Moscow, sends an email to Hunter Biden notifying him that he is interested in Hunter’s involvement with Burisma. “It would be helpful to get more insight on why you decided to work for the company,” Sonne tells him after requesting a meeting.

October 2015:

Amos Hochstein, then-U.S. special envoy and coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the Obama State Department, raised the issue of Hunter Biden’s work on Burisma’s board while at a meeting with the then-Vice President Biden. Hochstein later testified that he “wanted to make sure that he [Vice President Biden] was aware that there was an increase in chatter on media outlets close to Russians and corrupt oligarchs-owned media outlets about undermining his message – including Hunter Biden being part of the board of Burisma.”


Oct. 16, 2015: 

Somme from the WSJ submits follow-up questions to Ryan Toohey of FTI Consulting, which was handling public relations for Hunter Biden for the story. “Does Hunter feel that his involvement with Mr. Zlochevsky’s firm undermines his father’s message?” Somme asked after highlighting the then-vice president’s role on Ukraine policy. (2) He also asked about Hunter Biden’s response to Ambassador Pyatt’s speech in Odesa the previous month calling out Zlochevsky’s corruption. 

Nov. 2, 2015: 

Burisma adviser Vadym Pozharskyi emails Devon Archer and Hunter Biden to clarify his intentions for the proposed contract with Blue Star Strategies (BSS), a government relations and public affairs firm with deep Democratic ties. The email is likely spurred by media coverage of Burisma. Pozharskyi indicated that the work should be conducted with “ultimate purpose to close down for [sic] any cases/pursuits against Nikolay [Mykola Zlochevsky] in Ukraine.” Pozharskyi gave a list of desired deliverables for BSS, including “meetings/communications resulting in high-ranking US officials in Ukraine (US Ambassador) and in US publicly or in private communication/comment expressing their ‘positive opinion’ and support of Nikolay/Burisma to the highest level of decision makers here in Ukraine.”

Nov. 4, 2015: 

Hunter Biden reached out to U.S. official Amos Hochstein to set up a meeting for coffee on November 4, 2015 after Hochstein met with the vice president. According to Hochstein’s testimony to the investigators, the vice president told his son that he had met with Hochstein and discussed the younger Biden’s work for Burisma.

Nov. 5, 2015: 

Vice President Biden calls Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reiterating that “the U.S. willingness to provide a third $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine contingent on continued Ukrainian progress to investigate and prosecute corruption,” showing Biden to be in sync with IPC recommendations and not mentioning Shokin.

Nov. 12, 2015: 

Hochstein calls Hunter Biden. 

Nov. 22, 2015: 

A Ukraine desk officer at the State Department forwards Vice President Biden’s talking points for meetings with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and President Petro Poroshenko. A condition to fire Shokin has been added to the requirements for the reform of the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine). 

Dec. 3, 2015: 

Eric Schwerin sends an email to business associate Hunter Biden, Vadim Pozharskyi and Devon Archer saying, “WSJ has gotten back to us and plans to run their article ‘in the coming days.’” According to the email obtained from Hunter Biden’s laptop, the paper was still attempting to get an answer from him about “the potential conflict between his father’s anti-corruption message and his role on the board.” (6) The piece was set to run in the coming days to coincide with Vice President Biden’s planned trip to Ukraine. 

Dec. 4, 2015: 

The New York Times, following the Journal, submits a request for comment on Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma, the corruption investigations in Ukraine and Burisma’s lobbying activities in the United States. In a draft of answers to the Times’ inquiries, FTI Consulting's Toohy responds that “no one is lobbying on [Burisma’s] behalf.” While perhaps technically true, Blue Star Strategies had been retained by the group to influence U.S. officials in Ukraine.

Dec. 4, 2015: 

Vadym Pozharskyi and Mykola Zlochevsky urgently requests a call with then-Vice President Biden from Hunter Biden while the Burisma board was meeting in Dubai, Devon Archer, who also was on the Burisma board, later testified to congressional investigators. When asked about the pair’s request of Hunter Biden, Archer stated “The request was I think they were getting pressure and they requested Hunter, you know, help them with some of that pressure,” elaborating that the pressure was from the “Ukrainian Government investigations into Mykola.” (8)

Dec. 6, 2015: 

Hochstein was photographed briefing the vice president on his way to Ukraine. Nuland testified that Hochstein discussed the matter with the vice president on this trip. When Senate investigators asked about this briefing, Hochstein declined to elaborate on the specifics of his conversations but said, “In my conversation with Hunter Biden, I did not recommend that he leave the board.”

Dec. 7, 2015: 

Vice President Biden’s trip to Ukraine begins. Biden meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and delivers a speech to the parliament about anti-corruption efforts and reform. The requirement to fire Shokin is included in the talking points memos. 

Jan. 15, 2016: 

The Obama White House circulates the latest conditions for the loan guarantee. “Here’s nearly the latest CP document. We’ve made some very minor tweaks since this version, which I will dig up and send to you tomorrow but wanted to get something to you tonight,” Segal-Knowles wrote State Department official Rachel Goldbrenner on January 15, 2016. (9) The attached document was identical in contents to the previous conditions memo and made no demand for Shokin’s removal. 

Jan. 21, 2016: 

Internal State Department email quotes that “Dzerkalo Tyzhnya news website,” a Ukrainian newspaper, as saying “The U.S. State Department has made it clear to the Ukrainian authorities that it links the provision of a one billion dollar loan guarantee to Ukraine to the dismissal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. This became known during the visit by Deputy PGs Vitaliy Kasko, David Sakvarelidze, and Anti-corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky to the U.S.” (10) Eric Ciaramella, a CIA official assigned to the Obama White House for Ukraine issues and later Trump impeachment whistleblower, was surprised by this allegation, saying, “Yikes. I don’t recall this coming up in our meeting with them on Tuesday, although we did discuss the fact that the PGO IG condition has not yet been met.”

March 29, 2016: 

Shokin is dismissed from the Prosecutor General’s Office by the Ukrainian Parliament.

Nov. 22, 2016: 

In dealing with the aftermath of Shokin’s firing and Blue Star Strategies public relations push on U.S. embassy staff, Deputy Chief of Mission in Ukraine George Kent describes his interactions with the company to the Ambassador at the time, Marie Yovanovitch, who later became a witness in President Trump’s first impeachment trial. Kent relayed that he originally told a contact of Blue Star Strategies executive Sally Painter at a meeting that “the real issue to my mind was that someone in Washington needed to engage VP Biden quietly and say that his son Hunter’s presence on the Burisma board undercut the anti-corruption message the VP and we were advancing in Ukraine." (11) Kent said the meeting with Painter’s contact took place in May of 2016. 


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