Facebook has suspended the account of Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach, an ally of President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, for election interference.
Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, has been working with Giuliani and a shadowy group of Ukrainian operatives to gather dirt on former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter for roughly a year.
“We removed this account and this Page for violating our policy against the use of our platform by people engaged in election-focused influence operations,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
As BuzzFeed News reported last week, even after Facebook limited the distribution of a New York Post story because it made unsubstantiated claims about the Bidens and their activities in Ukraine, Derkach was still posting about it.
On Monday morning, Derkach told BuzzFeed News: “My Facebook account was blocked after the publication by American media of my statement about the existence of a laptop in the possession of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies with which illegal payments were made to companies close to the Biden family.”
Derkach said the Facebook ban also amounted to “direct interference in the electoral process in Ukraine,” since local elections are taking place this month and his party is involved.
Derkach also said that he would not stop his anti-Biden campaign, saying he would publish more information about the former vice president “in the next day or two.”
The US Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach in September for being “complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election.” The department also said it had determined Derkach was working as “an active Russian agent” in Ukraine for the past 10 years.
Derkach was schooled at a KGB academy in Moscow. He later became a Ukrainian lawmaker, voting for a set of anti-protest laws that passed during the country’s democratic revolution in 2014.
Derkach denies working for Russia and told BuzzFeed News last month that the sanctions against him were “revenge” by Biden’s “deep state associates” and “a preventative response” to a press conference he was planning to hold.
For months, Derkach has held press conferences in Kyiv during which he published leaked and selectively edited recordings of alleged conversations between Biden and former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. In the recordings, which the Biden and Poroshenko camps have called fake and part of a Russian disinformation operation, voices similar to the two men are heard discussing several issues related to Ukraine reforms, none of which have supported Derkach’s claims of corruption on the part of Biden.
In September, Derkach held a press conference where he played a video of two men he claimed were “witnesses” to alleged crimes of the Bidens showing a laptop they said had been used by a Ukrainian gas company to wire payments to Hunter.
Much of the information included in Derkach’s recordings has been disseminated in the US by pro-Trump media and Republican politicians. The latter have accused Biden of pressuring Poroshenko to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor general to bury an investigation into an alleged corruption scheme involving Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company on which his son Hunter sat on the board.
The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was a controversial figure and had been accused of corruption himself. Moreover, Ukrainian anticorruption activists said that Shokin — not Biden — was the one holding up an investigation into Burisma’s activities.
Two prosecutors who followed Shokin have said they found no evidence of misdeeds on the part of the Bidens involving Burisma.
A Ukrainian investigation into the origin of Derkach’s recordings was launched earlier this year. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said last month that her office was also looking at whether they had been edited, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported. But Venediktova has refused to open a probe into Derkach himself, a lawyer for Poroshenko said on Monday.
Derkach’s relationship with Giuliani has come under increasing scrutiny as the US government sanctioned him and following news that US intelligence agencies warned the White House about Russian intelligence using Giuliani to pass misinformation to Trump.
Giuliani met Derkach at least three times, including a meeting in Kyiv when the lawmaker passed a stack of documents to the former New York City mayor to help with his Ukraine campaign and the two men were photographed together.