Ukraine details alleged payments to ex-Trump aide by pro-Russians

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Ukraine details alleged payments to Trump aide from pro-Russians
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Kiev (AFP) - Ukrainian authorities have released details of payments worth million of dollars that US presidential campaign hopeful Donald Trump's former campaign chief allegedly received from Kiev's deposed Russian-backed leaders.

The revelations were followed by a top Ukrainian lawmaker's assertion Friday that Paul Manafort lobbied in favour of a pro-Kremlin party even after the 2014 pro-EU revolt that pulled Ukraine out of Russia's orbit.

The claims against Manafort have distracted from a White House bid that has seen the Republican Trump trail his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Trump said Friday that Manafort had "offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign".

Manafort had previously served as a public relations advisor to Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych -- now living in self-imposed exile in Russia -- and his Regions Party between 2007 and 2012.

US news reports surfaced this week suggesting that Manafort may have received $12.7 million (11.2 million euros) in secret cash payments over that time period.

Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) late Thursday published 22 entries on payments earmarked for Manafort for work he conducted either on behalf of Yanukovych or his party.

But it said in a statement that it could not be certain that Manafort ever actually received the money.

Manafort has flatly denied the reports.

- Secret visits -

But top Ukrainian lawmaker Sergiy Leshchenko said Manafort had also worked with Washington lobbying group Podesta that promoted the Regions Party and Yanukovych's image in the United States.

Leshchenko said Podesta was hired by the now-disbanded Regions Party member Vitaliy Kalyuzhniy.

"A number of people received the money on Manafort's behalf," Leshchenko told reporters.

"There were about 10 of them, and Vitaliy Kalyuzhniy's name is the one that appeared most often."

Leshchenko also alleged that Manafort continued to lobby for Russia's interests while working on behalf of the Opposition Bloc -- a Ukrainian political group formed from the remnants of the Regions Party.

Manafort's "last contacts with what by then was the Opposition Bloc continued until 2015," Leshchenko said.

"For example, Manafort came to Ukraine several times last year. The last time this happened was in October 2015."

He said Manafort worked as a political consultant for the Opposition Bloc in the run-up to Ukraine's parliamentary elections of October 2014 in which the party received less than 10 percent of the vote.

Leshchenko is a highly respected deputy who once edited the Ukrainska Pravda investigative news site and was elected to parliament in 2014 on President Petro Poroshenko's ticket.

- 'Black ledger' -

There was no immediate response to the latest allegations from Manafort or the Trump campaign team.

One of the stranger details to emerge from the latest disclosures is a suggestion that legendary US talk show host Larry King also received payments from the Regions Party.

King worked for decades at the US news network CNN before quitting and launching a new show that was syndicated by Moscow's pro-Kremlin RT English-language channel.

"Larry King was one of the people who received money from the Region Party's black ledger," Leshchenko said.

Ukrainska Pravda editor Sevgil Musaieva-Borovyk said King had received the alleged $225,000 payment for conducting a 2012 interview with former prime minister Mykola Azarov -- a close Yanukovych ally who now also lives in hiding in Russia.

King was not immediately available for comment on the report.

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