KYIV, May 7 - U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has been recalled by the Trump administration two months early in what top Democratic lawmakers called a “political hit job,” Foreign Policy reported Tuesday.
Yovanovitch, an experienced career diplomat who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations and has been ambassador to Ukraine since 2016, will leave her post later in May, two months before she was scheduled to step down.
Yovanovitch’s early dismissal will leave the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv without a top diplomat at an important juncture in Ukraine, during the transition of newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The developments follow political attacks by right-wing media figures in the U.S. and by a senior Ukrainian official. The attacks drew attention of top Democratic lawmakers, who urged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a private letter last month to publicly defend her, Foreign Policy reported.
Now, those lawmakers are bringing their concerns into the public.
“The White House’s outrageous decision to recall her is a political hit job and the latest in this Administration’s campaign against career State Department personnel,” said Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, House majority leader, and Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a joint statement made public Tuesday. “It’s clear that this decision was politically motivated, as allies of President Trump had joined foreign actors in lobbying for the Ambassador’s dismissal.”
Yovanovitch, who was outspoken about the need to crack down on corruption in the country, was thrust into the spotlight in March when Ukraine’s top prosecutor claimed, without evidence, that the ambassador had outlined a list of people he should not prosecute when he first met her.
The U.S. State Department called the claim by Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko an “outright fabrication.” In April, he walked back the statement in a separate interview.
Lutsenko’s allegations about Yovanovitch came two weeks after she issued scathing remarks about Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts and called on the authorities to fire special anti-corruption prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky. In wiretapped phone conversations, Kholodnytsky allegedly coached suspects on how to avoid corruption charges. (om/ez)