Burisma subsidiaries

Burisma subsidiaries DEFAULT

Russian hackers targeted Burisma amid impeachment inquiry, cybersecurity firm says

Russian military hackers tried to steal emails from the Ukrainian energy firm where Hunter Biden, the son of the Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, had a seat on the board, a US cybersecurity firm said.

The energy company Burisma Holdings was at the center of attempts by president Donald Trump last July to pressure Ukrainian authorities to announce an investigation into the Bidens for purported corruption, an effort that has led to the Republican being impeached by the US House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The California-based Area 1 Security identified the hacking of Burisma and linked it to Russia’s Main Directorate of Military Intelligence, or GRU. The same hacking group, known as “Fancy Bear” by cybersecurity researchers, breached the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in what US investigators described as part of an operation to disrupt that year’s election.

“You can see this attack really is starting to parallel with what we saw in 2016,” Oren Falkowitz, Area 1’s chief executive, said.

The Russian defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials at the US National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment. Burisma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A source close to Burisma said the company’s website had been subject to multiple break-in attempts over the past six months but did not provide further details.

What data the hackers were looking to steal was not clear, Area 1 said. Breaching Burisma could yield communications from, to or about Hunter Biden, who served as a director between 2014 and 2019. A leak of stolen data could potentially affect the impeachment process and the US electoral contest.

Area 1 said it became aware of the Russian targeting of Burisma after its email security scanning product found suspicious evidence online, including “decoy domains” –websites designed to imitate legitimate email services used by Burisma’s subsidiaries.

Publicly available domain registration records examined by Reuters show that the hackers created the decoy domains between 11 November, the day before US Democrats began their first public impeachment hearings, and 3 December, the day before the House judiciary committee took up the issue.

The records show that the same people also registered fake domains for a Ukrainian media company, named Kvartal 95, in March and April 2019. Kvartal 95 was founded by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and multiple employees of the station have since joined his administration.

Kvartal 95 and representatives for Zelenskiy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Area 1’s report said it had discovered that the GRU had targeted two subsidiaries of Burisma – KUB Gas LLC and Esko Pivnich – as well as CUB Energy Inc, which was affiliated with the firm, using lookalike domains intended to trick employees into providing their email passwords.

Burisma and its subsidiaries shared the same email server, Area 1 said, meaning a breach at any of the companies could expose them all.

The report gave a limited indication of how Area 1 determined that the lookalike domains were the work of the GRU, pointing mainly to similarities in how the hackers had previously set their digital traps.

Area 1 co-founder Blake Darche said unpublished data gathered by his firm linked the operation to a specific officer in Moscow, whose identity he was unable to establish. But Darch said Area 1 was “100% certain” the GRU was behind the hacking.

An outside researcher, Kyle Ehmke of the Virginia-based cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect, who reviewed the malicious domains flagged by Area 1, said that based on the information he had seen, he believed “with moderate confidence” that the GRU had devised the websites.

Ehmke said the hacking operation against Burisma used tools and methods consistent with Russian hackers associated with the GRU, but a complete picture was lacking.

Russian spies have routinely targeted Ukrainian energy firms with cyberattacks since Russia threw its weight behind a separatist takeover in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Joe Biden, did not comment directly on the hack but said in an email: “Any American president who had not repeatedly encouraged foreign interventions of this kind would immediately condemn this attack on the sovereignty of our elections.”

US intelligence officials have issued warnings that Russia is working to intervene in the November 2020 election. Trump is seeking re-election and Biden is a potential opponent out of a dozen Democrats seeking their party’s nomination.

Trump denies he did anything wrong by asking Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with Burisma. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, who reject Trump’s allegations of graft, and officials in his administration have rebuked his claims about them.

Sours: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/14/russian-hackers-targeted-ukrainian-company-burisma-impeachment-hunter-biden

Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment

With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking. In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the company.

The hackers fooled some of them into handing over their login credentials, and managed to get inside one of Burisma’s servers, Area 1 said.

“The attacks were successful,” said Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency. Mr. Falkowitz’s firm maintains a network of sensors on web servers around the globe — many known to be used by state-sponsored hackers — which gives the firm a front-row seat to phishing attacks, and allows them to block attacks on their customers.

“The timing of the Russian campaign mirrors the G.R.U. hacks we saw in 2016 against the D.N.C. and John Podesta,” the Clinton campaign chairman, Mr. Falkowitz said. “Once again, they are stealing email credentials, in what we can only assume is a repeat of Russian interference in the last election.”

transcript

transcript

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Russian Hacking Plan for 2020

Hosted by Michael Barbaro, produced by Luke Vander Ploeg, Theo Balcomb and Daniel Guillemette, and edited by Lisa Tobin, Paige Cowett and Hans Buetow

Kremlin-directed hackers infiltrated Democratic email servers to interfere with the 2016 American election. Emboldened by their past success, new evidence indicates that they are trying again.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”

[music]

Today: At the heart of the impeachment is a request made by President Trump that Ukraine investigate ties between the Bidens and an energy company called Burisma. Now, new reporting from The Times suggests that Russian hackers may be trying to fulfill that request. It’s Wednesday, January 15.

Nicole Perlroth, tell me what happened the other day.

nicole perlroth

So, I’ve been covering cyber security at The Times for about eight years, and I had been working on a story for a couple months about threats to the 2020 election. And as part of that story, I’d been speaking to a source of mine. His name is Oren Falkowitz. He is a former analyst at the National Security Agency, and now he runs a Silicon Valley company that blocks phishing attacks.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm.

nicole perlroth

And he’s been working with a lot of the Democratic candidates for 2020, and he’d given me an interesting number in the course of that reporting, which was that already the Democratic frontrunners for 2020 have been getting an average of something like 1,000 phishing attempts in the last couple months.

michael barbaro

Wow.

nicole perlroth

Right. It’s a huge number. And so I gave him a call to just do some basic fact checking as we were going to print, and I happened to catch him at an interesting time. And he said, you know what? I actually think I might have something bigger for you. Can I call you back later?

michael barbaro

[LAUGHS] That’s a very juicy little tease for a source to give a reporter.

nicole perlroth

Right.

michael barbaro

So what do you do?

nicole perlroth

Hey, Oren.

oren falkowitz

Hey, Nicole. How’s it going?

nicole perlroth

Good. How are you?

oren falkowitz

I’m great.

nicole perlroth

I call him back.

nicole perlroth

So let’s start from the top.

nicole perlroth

And he starts to tell me the full story.

[music]
nicole perlroth

So, starting about New Year’s Eve, he was actually at Disney World with his kids, and he was in line for the teacups ride, as he tells it.

michael barbaro

Naturally.

nicole perlroth

And someone on his team sends him a Slack message.

oren falkowitz

And it said, I found a bunch of Russian phishing attacks going after Ukrainians targeting natural gas.

nicole perlroth

There is an active Russian phishing campaign against some companies in Ukraine.

oren falkowitz

You know, it’s pretty boring, run of the mill, but I’m going to keep tabs on it, and if they swing more towards U.S. targets, you know, we can spend some extra time looking at it.

nicole perlroth

Couple days later, a different person on their team was giving a presentation about threats to the oil and gas industry, and took a little bit of a closer look at what these attacks against Ukraine were all about.

oren falkowitz

And she started to notice after a little digging that all three gas companies that had been found were related to this company Burisma.

nicole perlroth

They were all subsidiaries of Burisma.

michael barbaro

Hmm, the company at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry and the company on which Hunter Biden sat on the board.

nicole perlroth

Right. So, Oren’s team takes a close look at these attacks, and they find out that these are pretty sophisticated phishing attacks, for one.

oren falkowitz

In this case, what the Russians we’re doing is setting up fake websites to look exactly like Burisma Holdings company’s websites, so that when a user visited them, they wouldn’t really know the difference.

nicole perlroth

They’ve taken something like, KUBgas.com.ua and just disposed of the “.ua,” so these employees are looking at the website address, and why should they even assume that their company doesn’t own the .com domain?

oren falkowitz

That would allow them, you know, in some of these websites, to ask for usernames and passwords. And once those are given away, they can go and do other things like access their emails, start sending emails on their behalf, and going further into their networks, probably to achieve some goal that we don’t understand yet.

nicole perlroth

So, what they saw was that people were indeed accessing these fake login pages.

nicole perlroth

O.K. And do we know how successful these attacks have been?

oren falkowitz

The attacks have been successful.

nicole perlroth

And giving away their usernames and passwords.

oren falkowitz

What they’ve accomplished is yet to be determined.

nicole perlroth

We don’t know what happens after that. Oren’s team can’t say whether they got any emails at all, whether they got any material that would be embarrassing to Joe Biden or his son. But what’s clear is they successfully got in.

So on its face, this would not actually be that weird. Ukraine is known as sort of Russia’s test kitchen for hacking and cyberattacks. It’s basically been under constant attack since before 2014. But when they started unwinding some of these campaigns back, there were two things that stood out. One, this isn’t some random Russian cyber criminal group. This is Fancy Bear, the name of the group that private security researchers give to the G.R.U., Russia’s main intelligence directorate — the same group that hit John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, back in 2016.

michael barbaro

Wow. So the same group is doing the attack on Burisma?

nicole perlroth

Exactly.

The other thing that was interesting was the timing. When Oren’s team went back and looked at the timestamps, this was early November. And you have to remember where we were in early November. The private testimony of the impeachment witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee had just wrapped up and we were about to start the public hearings.

michael barbaro

So, this division of the G.R.U. is targeting Burisma at the very same moment when Burisma is suddenly at the center of the national conversation in the impeachment process.

nicole perlroth

Exactly. Here we are again.

oren falkowitz

Given that we’re so close to the first votes being cast in the elections.

nicole perlroth

With an election year coming up.

oren falkowitz

This is starting to look more like the pattern that we have seen in 2016.

nicole perlroth

With a Russian hack of a sensitive Democratic target.

michael barbaro

So Nicole, as he is telling you this, what are you thinking?

nicole perlroth

I’m thinking this is 2016 all over again. So, I had been told that we were going to see a lot of foreign interference in this election. Not just from Russia, but because Russia had offered a playbook for interference for every other country that had any other incentive to influence the 2020 election, we were told we were going to be getting hit from all sides. But, I had fully expected that perhaps because Russian tactics and techniques had been spilled over the Mueller report and in private security intelligence assessments, that we would see something more sophisticated. But, when Oren was describing this, it was a cookie cutter repeat of what happened to John Podesta back in 2016.

michael barbaro

Right. Who would use the exact same technique twice?

nicole perlroth

Apparently, the G.R.U. does.

[music]
michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

Nicole, you said you were talking to Oren as part of your reporting on what to expect from Russia in 2020. But, as you’ve observed, this story that he told you, it sounds like they’re up to the exact same thing as they were in 2016. Why would that be, given that they were caught in the sense that the U.S. understands what they did in 2016 — why would they just use the same tactics in 2020?

nicole perlroth

Because it still works. People will still click on these links. People will still turn over their passwords. We know people won’t turn on this thing called two-factor authentication to make sure people can’t just hack into their computers from a strange location. And, we also know that the outcome can be the same. We know that in 2016 —

archived recording

Breaking tonight. Less than two weeks until election day, and hacked emails from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, are raising new questions about Mrs. Clinton and her candidacy.

nicole perlroth

When Russian hackers and trolls dumped John Podesta’s emails and emails at the D.N.C., people devoured them.

archived recording

After thousands of leaked emails showed Democratic Party officials possibly plotting against Bernie Sanders in his race against Hillary Clinton.

nicole perlroth

People wanted to believe that the race was fixed for Hillary Clinton from the beginning.

archived recording 1

They planned this. They set it up. They didn’t give us a chance.

archived recording 2

They came together pretty much to shut Bernie out. I mean, it’s pretty obvious.

nicole perlroth

And, what they did was, they looked in those emails for any evidence of that, and we got to a place where the Russians successfully sowed American discord.

archived recording (bernie sanders)

And we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. [BOOING]

nicole perlroth

They basically poured fuel on the fire.

And when you think about where we are in 2020, there’s no evidence to suggest that the outcome wouldn’t be the exact same. When you think about what President Trump was saying last summer into the fall —

archived recording (donald trump)

Uh, they should investigate the Bidens, because how does a company that’s newly formed —

nicole perlroth

— that Burisma was corrupt.

archived recording (donald trump)

That was a crooked deal, 100%.

nicole perlroth

That there was widespread corruption in Ukraine that he wanted investigated.

archived recording (donald trump)

Uh, Ukraine is known as a very, very corrupt place, and they know that.

nicole perlroth

And you think about what Russian hackers could potentially get from getting inside Burisma’s systems. They might not necessarily find anything that is an exhibit A of corruption. But if you selectively leaked emails out of context, it’d be very easy in the current media climate and the current partisan climate for people to once again devour those emails and find whatever it is they want to find.

michael barbaro

There doesn’t have to be all that much there there for it to effectively sow discord?

nicole perlroth

Exactly.

michael barbaro

Nicole, does the fact that the Russians are doing this in pretty much the exact same way as they did in 2016 suggest something about how the United States responded last time, if Russia feels empowered to pretty much do the same thing again?

nicole perlroth

Well, I think it tells us that they didn’t feel much pain from the Mueller report and sanctions, and from the indictments against Russian hackers and trolls. I mean, you have to remember that even after the American intelligence community concluded that Russian hackers and trolls had interfered in the 2016 election.

archived recording (donald trump)

I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the D.N.C. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t— maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

nicole perlroth

The president was still blaming a 400-pound guy sitting on his bed.

archived recording (donald trump)

You don’t know who broke in to D.N.C..

nicole perlroth

In Helsinki, the president said—

archived recording (donald trump)

People came to me. Dan Coats came to me, and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.

nicole perlroth

I don’t know why it would have been Russia. And more recently—

archived recording

Today was their first time meeting face-to-face since the release of the Mueller report.

nicole perlroth

When a reporter asked Trump at a press conference.

archived recording

Mr. President, will you tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election?

nicole perlroth

Will you tell Vladimir Putin not to interfere in 2020?

archived recording

And you can even see it right there, Mr. Trump wagging his finger at Putin, all with a smile.

nicole perlroth

Trump wagged his finger jovially and said, don’t interfere in 2020. There has been no repercussions for Russian interference in 2016, at least not enough to keep them from doing the same thing all over again in 2020.

michael barbaro

And of course, the president is now also advancing the theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in 2016.

nicole perlroth

Right, which further absolves Russia from its interference in 2016, and is at the heart of the conspiracy theory that’s gotten Trump impeached in the first place.

michael barbaro

Right.

nicole perlroth

So that’s the bad news, but it actually gets worse. If you remember back in 2016, the D.N.C. was actually hacked by two groups of Russian hackers. The first was Fancy Bear, which we have now talked about. The other was another Russian intelligence group called Cozy Bear.

michael barbaro

Right.

nicole perlroth

And what we now know from our reporting over the last six months is that, well, Fancy Bear’s continued on with these very obvious phishing campaigns and is really up to its old tricks. Cozy Bear, the other group that hacked the D.N.C. back in 2016, has actually dropped off the radar. So about six months ago, researchers I talked to had been following them, and all of a sudden they sort of up and abandoned their hacking infrastructure. They switched out email accounts that were being monitored by the private sector and intelligence officials. They’re now using things like secure, anonymous email accounts that make it much harder for intelligence agencies and private researchers to track their communications.

michael barbaro

Hmm. So they’ve kind of gone dark.

nicole perlroth

Exactly. And it gets a little scarier.

archived recording

Cyber criminals are holding entire American cities, towns, and counties hostage, and they’re doing it with computer viruses called ransomware.

nicole perlroth

So, one of the things that’s just been happening separately from any of these Russian campaigns over the last year is that American cities and towns have been getting hit with a record number of ransomware attacks. So, these are attacks when cyber criminals — usually looking for a profit — infect their computer systems, hold their data hostage until they pay a ransom.

michael barbaro

Right. This happened in Baltimore, for example.

nicole perlroth

Baltimore.

archived recording

The assault causing police emails to go down, as did the Board of Elections.

nicole perlroth

Atlanta.

archived recording

The F.B.I. is investigating a cyberattack on the city of Atlanta. The so-called ransomware attack on the city’s computer network triggered outages across several departments.

nicole perlroth

New Orleans.

archived recording

The city of New Orleans crippled after a cyberattack. Websites down. Phones unanswered. The mayor declaring a state of emergency as local and federal officials work to figure out who’s behind the hack and how much damage has been done.

[music]
nicole perlroth

And what I learned in the course of my reporting over the last couple months is that there is a question at the Homeland Security Department and among the intelligence community about whether these were just run-of-the-mill ransomware attacks, or whether there was a G.R.U. component. And the fear is that the attacks might actually just be decoys for some more nefarious sleuthing of these local elections systems.

michael barbaro

Wow.

nicole perlroth

Now, they have not concluded that this is the case, but this is something that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating. And, I think whether or not they conclude that there was some G.R.U. component here, what those ransomware attacks showed us is that American towns and cities are still so vulnerable to the type of attack that could really influence the vote on election day.

michael barbaro

Can you help us understand what that might look like?

nicole perlroth

So, one scenario is, they change the votes. They hack into the actual ballot machines themselves and change people’s votes without anyone’s knowledge. The other thing is that they could actually keep people from voting. They could hack into the software companies that make the software that’s used to check people in at the polls. Someone shows up on election day and they’re told, you’re not registered to vote, or it looks like you’ve already voted. That would essentially be something like digital disenfranchisement. And here’s the thing. Back in 2016, Russia actually hacked into a software company that provided the poll check-in systems. When people showed up in Durham, North Carolina on election day, which is a reliably blue county in an otherwise swing state to vote, there were a lot of people who were kept from voting that day. And they were told, it looks like you’re not registered to vote, even though they were standing there with their registration cards. They were told they had to go to a different location. Some were told that they had already voted. And the county actually had to go to print paper. And it cast a lot of doubt that perhaps Russia actually had succeeded in hacking it in a way to keep people from voting in this blue county. And it took three years. It was only last week — O.K., we’re less than a year away from the next election — it’s only last week that investigators at the Department of Homeland Security concluded that, actually, Russia had not hacked into the system that Durham used, that it looks like technical misconfiguration errors were to blame. And a lot of people we’ve talked to have said, maybe that’s just the point. Russia doesn’t necessarily have to hack the election to throw the outcome into doubt. Maybe making Americans question the final outcome of a presidential election is all it needs to do to undermine faith in our democracy.

michael barbaro

So you’re saying that, yes, Russia is doing the same thing that it did in 2016 now. It’s also doing more, possibly. We don’t know what Cozy Bear is up to, and we suspect that Russia may be pursuing this new attack on the election systems themselves.

nicole perlroth

That’s right, Michael. So let me paint a picture. This would be the worst case scenario that American officials are worried about. One, Russia repeats the 2016 playbook, which it looks like they’re beginning to do. They hacked into Burisma. Let’s say they end up dumping emails that are embarrassing to Joe Biden or his son, and we see a repeat of what we saw with John Podesta and Hillary Clinton in 2016. And then, let’s say they add this new prong, O.K.? Which is the possibility that Russia may hack into the election itself. We’re now in a moment where our faith in institutions is at an all-time low, and that is where you get to the true nightmare scenario for 2020.

michael barbaro

Nicole, thank you.

nicole perlroth

Thank you so much.

[music]
michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording

You’re going to be a juror in the trial in the Senate that’s about to start. Do you worry President Trump will be emboldened by acquittal?

archived recording (amy klobuchar)

No. When I look at what the issue is, it’s whether or not we’re going to be able to have witnesses. We’ve asked for only four people as witnesses, and if our Republican colleagues won’t allow those witnesses, they may as well give the president a crown and a scepter. They may as well make him king. And last time I checked —

michael barbaro

In the seventh Democratic debate, held on the eve of an impeachment trial in the Senate, the three senators in the race, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders said they would temporarily return to Washington to act as jurors in the case.

archived recording (elizabeth warren)

Some things are more important than politics. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. It says that no one is above the law. That includes the President of the United States. If we have an impeachment trial, I will be there because it is my responsibility.

michael barbaro

Much of the debate focused on foreign policy, with many of the candidates calling for restraint in the U.S. approach to Iran, and expressing a reluctance to enter into a new military conflict in the Middle East. But in perhaps the debate’s most tense moment —

archived recording

Senator Sanders, Senator Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?

michael barbaro

Moderators pressed Senator Sanders about the claim made by Senator Warren that Sanders had told her a woman could not be elected president.

archived recording (bernie sanders)

Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it.

michael barbaro

A claim that Sanders has denied.

archived recording (bernie sanders)

Anybody knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be President of the United States. Go to YouTube today.

michael barbaro

Warren, however, stood by the claim.

archived recording (elizabeth warren)

Look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head on. And I think the best way to talk about who can win, is by looking at people’s winning record. Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy and me.

archived recording

So true. So true. [APPLAUSE]

[music]
michael barbaro

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

The Justice Department indicted seven officers from the same military intelligence unit in 2018.

The Russian attacks on Burisma appear to be running parallel to an effort by Russian spies in Ukraine to dig up information in the analog world that could embarrass the Bidens, according to an American security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. The spies, the official said, are trying to penetrate Burisma and working sources in the Ukrainian government in search of emails, financial records and legal documents.

The Russian government did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Burisma.

American officials are warning that the Russians have grown stealthier since 2016, and are again seeking to steal and spread damaging information and target vulnerable election systems ahead of the 2020 election.

[Read: Even as American election defenses have improved, Russian hackers and trolls have become more sophisticated.]

In the same vein, Russia has been working since the early days of Mr. Trump’s presidency to turn the focus away from its own election interference in 2016 by seeding conspiracy theories about Ukrainian meddling and Democratic complicity.

The result has been a muddy brew of conspiracy theories that mix facts, like the handful of Ukrainians who openly criticized Mr. Trump’s candidacy, with discredited claims that the D.N.C.’s email server is in Ukraine and that Mr. Biden, as vice president, had corrupt dealings with Ukrainian officials to protect his son. Spread by bots and trolls on social media, and by Russian intelligence officers, the claims resonated with Mr. Trump, who views talk of Russian interference as an attack on his legitimacy.

With Mr. Biden’s emergence as a front-runner for the Democratic nomination last spring, the president latched on to the corruption allegations, and asked that Ukraine investigate the Bidens on his July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The call became central to Mr. Trump’s impeachment last month.

The Biden campaign sought to cast the Russian effort to hack Burisma as an indication of Mr. Biden’s political strength, and to highlight Mr. Trump’s apparent willingness to let foreign powers boost his political fortunes.

“Donald Trump tried to coerce Ukraine into lying about Joe Biden and a major bipartisan, international anti-corruption victory because he recognized that he can’t beat the vice president,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign.

“Now we know that Vladimir Putin also sees Joe Biden as a threat,” Mr. Bates added. “Any American president who had not repeatedly encouraged foreign interventions of this kind would immediately condemn this attack on the sovereignty of our elections.”

The corruption allegations hinge on Hunter Biden’s work on the Burisma board. The company hired Mr. Biden while his father was vice president and leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy, including a successful push to have Ukraine’s top prosecutor fired for corruption. The effort was backed by European allies.

The story has since been recast by Mr. Trump and some of his staunchest defenders, who say Mr. Biden pushed out the prosecutor because Burisma was under investigation and his son could be implicated. Rudolph W. Giuliani, acting in what he says was his capacity as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, has personally taken up investigating the Bidens and Burisma, and now regularly claims to have uncovered clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing.

The evidence, though, has yet to emerge, and now the Russians appear to have joined the hunt.

Area 1 researchers discovered a G.R.U. phishing campaign on Ukrainian companies on New Year’s Eve. A week later, Area 1 determined what the Ukrainian targets had in common: They were all subsidiaries of Burisma Holdings, the company at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment. Among the Burisma subsidiaries phished were KUB-Gas, Aldea, Esko-Pivnich, Nadragas, Tehnocom-Service and Pari. The targets also included Kvartal 95, a Ukrainian television production company founded by Mr. Zelensky. The phishing attack on Kvartal 95 appears to have been aimed at digging up email correspondence for the company’s chief, Ivan Bakanov, whom Mr. Zelensky appointed as the head of Ukraine’s Security Service last June.

To steal employees’ credentials, the G.R.U. hackers directed Burisma to their fake login pages. Area 1 was able to trace the look-alike sites through a combination of internet service providers frequently used by G.R.U.’s hackers, rare web traffic patterns, and techniques that have been used in previous attacks against a slew of other victims, including the 2016 hack of the D.N.C. and a more recent Russian hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“The Burisma hack is a cookie-cutter G.R.U. campaign,” Mr. Falkowitz said. “Russian hackers, as sophisticated as they are, also tend to be lazy. They use what works. And in this, they were successful.”

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/13/us/politics/russian-hackers-burisma-ukraine.html
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What To Know About The Ukrainian Company At The Heart Of Trump's Biden Allegations

Burisma Group, a Ukrainian energy company, keeps a low profile. This building, which houses the offices of a Burisma subsidiary, is located in a residential part of the country's capital of Kyiv. Lucian Kim/NPR hide caption

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Lucian Kim/NPR

Burisma Group, a Ukrainian energy company, keeps a low profile. This building, which houses the offices of a Burisma subsidiary, is located in a residential part of the country's capital of Kyiv.

Lucian Kim/NPR

Burisma Group, the Ukrainian energy company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son once served on the board of directors, keeps a low profile. Although the company advertises itself as one of Ukraine's largest private natural gas producers, it is almost impossible to find.

On its website, Burisma lists an address in Cyprus, and in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, the company's offices are ensconced inside a nondescript, five-story business center in a residential neighborhood.

The company has come into focus following President Trump's repeated requests to Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden for possible "corruption" during his five years as a Burisma director. Trump has also accused Joe Biden of having used his position as vice president to fire the Ukrainian prosecutor in charge of investigating Burisma.

The revelation last week that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation into one of his top political rivals led Democratic lawmakers to launch a presidential impeachment inquiry.

In fact, Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, did not get any exceptional treatment. The prosecutor Biden singled out in 2016, Viktor Shokin, failed to make any high-level corruption convictions — as did Yuriy Lutsenko, his successor. At the time, Ukrainian anti-corruption activists and other Western governments joined Biden in his criticism of Shokin, and Ukrainian prosecutors have said there is no indication that Hunter Biden did anything wrong.

On Friday,Ruslan Ryaboshapka, Ukraine's newly appointed chief prosecutor, told reporters his office will review all investigations shelved by his predecessors, including those involving Burisma and Zlochevsky. Those investigations were into activities that took place before Hunter Biden joined the board in 2014.

"It's more about ethics. If the son of a top politician receives some payments from a company for whatever reason, there's always a conflict of interests," says Alexander Paraschiy, the head of research at Concorde Capital,an investment firm in Kyiv.

Hunter Biden was paid about $50,000 a month as a Burisma director, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"It usually is a good investment for any Ukrainian businessman to hire some reputable guy or the relative of a reputable guy. It definitely paid off for Mr. Zlochevsky," says Paraschiy.

Zlochevsky expanded Burisma at the same time when he was Ukraine's environment minister, whose duties included issuing drilling licenses. After the bloody revolution on Kyiv's streets five years ago, Zlochevsky — like disgraced President Viktor Yanukovych — fled Ukraine.

Amid the political turmoil in Kyiv, Russia annexed Crimea and fomented an armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. But hopes were high that the new Ukrainian government would at least start uprooting endemic corruption.

Burisma faced a money-laundering investigation and questions over how it had obtained some of its licenses to drill for natural gas. In spring 2014, the company appointed Hunter Biden and a former Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, to its board. Three years later, Burisma added Cofer Black, a former CIA official and foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, to the board.

"I believe the only reason Burisma and Zlochevsky were inviting people with such names was to whitewash their reputation and to present themselves as a company doing legitimate business in Ukraine," says Daria Kaleniuk, head of the nongovernmental Anti-Corruption Action Center in Kyiv.

The Zlocci shop features collections of flashy men's shoes made from crocodile and caiman skins arranged on two polished marble tables. In 2015, investigative reporterstraced the ownership of the business to Zlochevsky. Lucian Kim/NPR hide caption

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Lucian Kim/NPR

The Zlocci shop features collections of flashy men's shoes made from crocodile and caiman skins arranged on two polished marble tables. In 2015, investigative reporterstraced the ownership of the business to Zlochevsky.

Lucian Kim/NPR

As a privately owned company, Burisma is not required to publicize its annual results. In a recent presentation for investors, it says it more than doubled its hydrocarbon production since 2013 and paid more than $240 million in taxes over the previous two years.

In an upbeat 2017 promotional video, Burisma presents itself as an energy company looking to expand beyond Ukraine's borders. Photographs of Hunter Biden and the other four board members appear over the company's "key corporate governance principles: leadership, efficiency, remuneration and transparency."

YouTube

But for a company with global ambitions, Burisma is hardly transparent in dealing with media. Reporters' requests for comment are summarily ignored. Alexander Gorbunenko, the chief financial officer at Burisma when Hunter Biden served on the board, declined to comment to NPR, saying to do so would be "unethical."

Zlochevsky's whereabouts are unknown, and he and his company are invisible in Kyiv. One of the few signs of the elusive energy tycoon is a boutique on the ground floor of an upscale apartment building on the Dnieper River.

The Zlocci shop features collections of flashy men's shoes made from crocodile and caiman skins arranged on two polished marble tables. A pair of low-cut crocodile boots goes for more than $3,700, while blue pony-hair sneakers cost almost $800. An attentive salesman offers a 30% discount and home delivery.

Even though the Zlocci website says the outfitter is Spanish, a journalistic investigationin 2015traced the ownership to Zlochevsky. A promotional video — in Ukrainian — shows a model wearing Zlocci shoes in the port of Monaco, where Zlochevsky has been hosting an annual international energy conference since 2016.

"One of the reasons that I am proud to be a member of the board at Burisma is that I believe we are trying to figure out the way to create a radical change in the way we look at energy," Hunter Biden says in undated remarks on the conference website.

Zlochevsky's event has featured such speakers as Prince Albert II of Monaco; Romano Prodi, a former Italian prime minister; Joschka Fischer, a former German foreign minister; and other past and present luminaries from European and U.S. politics.

Zlochevsky also continues to buy favor with his support for the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as the Trump administration's special representative for Ukraine, is a senior adviser to the Atlantic Council. Volker's role in the administration's communications with Ukraine's new government is now under scrutiny in Congress.

In September 2018, Vadym Pozharskiy, an adviser to Burisma's board, attended Atlantic Council events in New York and met with Volker and former State Department officials, according to the company's website. Pozharskiy did not reply to repeated requests for comment by NPR.

Hunter Biden, for his part, no longer works for Burisma.

He left the company earlier this year as his father was launching his presidential campaign.

Sours: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/04/766579412/what-to-know-about-the-ukrainian-company-at-the-heart-of-trumps-biden-allegation

Burisma: US firm says Russia hacked company at heart of Trump impeachment

The Ukrainian gas company at the centre of President Donald Trump's impeachment was successfully hacked by Russian military agents in November, a US cybersecurity firm has said.

Area 1 Security said it was not clear what the hackers were searching for when they hacked Burisma Holdings.

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden was previously on the board of the firm.

Burisma, the US government and Russia's Ministry of Defence are yet to respond.

Area 1 linked the hack - a "phishing" attack - to Russia's military intelligence unit known commonly as the GRU.

President Trump was impeached in December over allegations that he improperly pressured Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into Burisma and its links to the Bidens.

The security firm also drew parallels between November's hack and another that was carried out against Democrats in 2016, before the US presidential election.

In its eight-page report, California-based firm Area 1 said the GRU hackers behind the Burisma breach are known by the alias "Fancy Bear" among cybersecurity researchers.

The hackers used "phishing" emails that are designed to steal usernames and passwords, the California-based security firm said.

In this case, Burisma employees were sent what looked like internal company emails and fake websites that looked like the sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries.

Using this tactic, the hackers managed to get into Burisma's servers, it added.

Area 1 said it became aware of the hack after its email security scanning product found suspicious evidence online, including "decoy domains" for the fake websites.

A source close to Burisma told Reuters news agency that the company's website had been subject to a number of break-in attempts over the past six months.

Why is Burisma important?

Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm, is at the heart of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

In a phone call in July 2019, President Trump pushed for Ukrainian President Zelensky to announce an investigation into Burisma and the Bidens.

Image source, Getty Images

Specifically, Mr Trump wanted Kyiv to look into a debunked theory that Joe Biden had previously tried to quash a probe of Burisma in order to protect his son.

President Trump is now due to stand trial in the Senate on two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He denies any wrongdoing.

How is this linked to 2016?

The Burisma hack "really is starting to parallel with what we saw in 2016", Area 1 co-founder Oren Falkowitz told Reuters.

That year, hackers gained access to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and to the campaign of President Trump's then-electoral rival, Hillary Clinton.

Area 1 co-founders Mr Falkowitz and Blake Darche added: "The timing of the GRU's campaign in relation to the 2020 US elections raises the specter that this is an early warning of what we have anticipated since the successful cyberattacks undertaken during the 2016 US elections."

Mr Darche also told Reuters that they were "100% certain" that the GRU was behind the hacking.

More on this story

Sours: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51103556

Subsidiaries burisma

Ukrainian gas firm Burisma hacked by Russians in all-too-familiar phishing scheme, cybersecurity company finds

Russian government hackers successfully penetrated the internal systems of Burisma, the Ukrainian-based oil and gas firm that once employed former Vice President Joe Biden's son, a Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity company has found.

Area 1, the cybersecurity outfit, issued a report detailing Russian GRU phishing efforts beginning in November 2019 aimed at "targeting the email credentials of employees at Burisma Holdings and its subsidiaries and partners" in an effort to "gain control of [Burisma's] internal systems."

"Our report is not noteworthy because we identify the GRU launching a phishing campaign, nor is the targeting of a Ukranian company particularly novel. It is significant because Burisma Holdings is publically entangled in U.S. foreign and domestic politics," the report's authors wrote.

It’s unclear what the hackers found or what they obtained, the company said.

Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son, has faced criticism for accepting a position on Burisma's board of directors. When he joined the firm in 2014, his father was fronting U.S. foreign policy toward Kyiv, and while the Bidens have not been accused of doing anything illegal, the position presented the appearance of a conflict of interest, ethics experts have told ABC News. President Donald Trump's overtures to Ukraine's leader in July to investigate the Bidens prompted Congress' impeachment probe.

The Russians' phishing campaign described by Area 1 mirrors the Kremlin's efforts to penetrate Democrats leading up to the 2016 presidential election, when Russians successfully penetrated the email account of Hillary Clinton campaign adviser John Podesta through similar means. Russia has denied hacking into U.S. elections.

"The Burisma Holdings campaign is yet another example of the phishing playbook being applied to great effect," the authors wrote. "The timing of the GRU's campaign in relation to the 2020 U.S. elections raises the spectre that this is an early warning of what we have anticipated since the successful cyberattacks undertaken during the 2016 U.S. elections."

Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates issued a statement to ABC News late Monday about the Russian hacking of Burisma.

"This proves that both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin understand the true stakes of this election," Bates said. "Joe Biden is running to bring our country together and restore American leadership in the world -- repairing the damage Donald Trump has done to our national security and alliances. Donald Trump tried to coerce Ukraine into lying about Joe Biden and a major bipartisan, international anti-corruption victory because he recognized that he can't beat the Vice President."

"Now we know that Vladimir Putin also sees Joe Biden as a threat," he continued. "Any American president who had not repeatedly encouraged foreign interventions of this kind would immediately condemn this attack on the sovereignty of our elections."

Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian GRU officials for hacking the Democratic National Committee as part of his investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election. In 2018, the Justice Department charged seven Russian GRU officials with conspiracy for allegedly hacking anti-doping agencies of the Olympic Games.

On Sunday, "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos questioned national security adviser Robert O'Brien about the administration's preparedness for Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"We've been very clear on our position with respect to the Russians and that's to stay out of our elections," O'Brien said. "We've been very clear with the Chinese and we've been very clear with the Iranians."

Asked by Stephanopoulos to weigh in on the matter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cast a dimmer perspective, pointing a finger at Trump for "jeopardizing the integrity of our elections" by deferring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The president of the United States is in complete denial about Russia's role. As I have said in terms of this president, all roads lead to Putin," she said. "He said he's not going to accept the assessment of our own intelligence agencies."

Meanwhile, election security officials in the United States continue sounding alarms about the vulnerability of our election systems

"The thing I'm most worried about are a repeat of some of the types of attacks we say in 2016 against larger election infrastructure," said Matt Blaze, a Georgetown University Law Center professor, during a hearing before the Committee on House Administration last week. "A determined adversary who wanted to disrupt our elections would have a frighteningly easy task."

Sours: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ukrainian-gas-firm-burisma-hacked-russians-familiar-phishing/story?id=68259768
WATCH: Yovanovitch: Hunter Biden’s Burisma role could raise ‘appearance of a conflict of interest’

Russian hackers targeted Ukrainian company at center of impeachment storm: cybersecurity firm

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russian military hackers tried to steal emails from the Ukrainian energy firm where Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic U.S. presidential contender Joe Biden, had a seat on the board, an American cybersecurity firm said on Monday.

Energy company Burisma Holdings Ltd was at the center of attempts by President Donald Trump last July to pressure Ukrainian authorities into announcing an investigation into the Bidens for purported corruption, an effort that has led to the Republican being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Trump denies he did anything wrong by asking Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with Burisma. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, who reject Trump’s allegations of graft.

California-based Area 1 Security identified the hacking of Burisma and linked it to Russia’s Main Directorate of Military Intelligence, or GRU. The same hacking group, known as “Fancy Bear” or “APT28” by cybersecurity researchers, breached the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in what U.S. investigators described as part of an operation to disrupt that year’s election.

“You can see this attack really is starting to parallel with what we saw in 2016,” Oren Falkowitz, Area 1’s chief executive, said in an interview.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials at the U.S. National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment.

Burisma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A source close to Burisma told Reuters the company’s website had been subject to multiple break-in attempts over the past six months but did not provide further details.

What data the hackers were looking to steal is not clear, Area 1 said. Breaching Burisma could yield communications from, to, or about Hunter Biden, who served as a director between 2014 and 2019. A leak of stolen data could potentially affect the impeachment process and the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Area 1 said it became aware of the Russian targeting of Burisma after its email security scanning product found suspicious evidence online, including “decoy domains”: websites designed to imitate legitimate email services used by Burisma’s subsidiaries.

Publicly available domain registration records examined by Reuters show that the hackers created the decoy domains between Nov. 11, the day before U.S. Democrats began their first public impeachment hearings, and Dec. 3, the day before the House Judiciary Committee took up the matter.

The records show that the same people also registered fake domains for a Ukrainian media company, named Kvartal 95, in March and April 2019. Kvartal 95 was founded by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and multiple employees of the company have since joined his administration.

Kvartal 95 and representatives for Zelenskiy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Area 1’s report said it discovered the GRU had targeted two subsidiaries of Burisma - KUB Gas LLC and Esko Pivnich - as well as CUB Energy Inc, which previously did business with the company, using lookalike domains intended to trick employees into providing their email passwords.

Burisma and its subsidiaries share the same email server, Area 1 said, meaning a breach at any of the companies could expose them all.

The report gave a limited indication of how Area 1 determined that the lookalike domains were the work of the GRU, pointing mainly to similarities in how the hackers had previously set their digital traps. Area 1 co-founder Blake Darche said unpublished data gathered by his firm linked the operation to a specific officer in Moscow, whose identity he was unable to establish.

But Darche said “we are 100 percent certain” that the GRU was behind the hacking.

An outside researcher, Kyle Ehmke of Virginia-based cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect, who reviewed the malicious domains flagged by Area 1, said based on the information he had seen, he believed “with moderate confidence” that the websites were devised by the GRU.

Ehmke said that the hacking operation against Burisma used methods consistent with Russian hackers associated with the GRU, but that a complete picture was lacking.

John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis with U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye, told Reuters the domains discovered by Area 1 are “consistent” with other known APT28 activities.

Russian spies have routinely targeted Ukrainian energy firms with cyberattacks since Russia threw its weight behind a separatist takeover in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

U.S. intelligence officials have issued warnings that Russia is working to intervene in the November 2020 election. Trump is seeking re-election and Biden is a leading opponent out of a dozen Democrats seeking their party’s nomination.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Joe Biden, did not comment directly on the hack but said in an email: “Any American president who had not repeatedly encouraged foreign interventions of this kind would immediately condemn this attack on the sovereignty of our elections.”

Reporting by Christopher Bing Raphael Satter; Polina Ivanova in Kiev, Ukraine contributed; Editing by Chris Sanders, Grant McCool and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Sours: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-russia-burisma-idUSKBN1ZD0EX

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What is Burisma? The Ukrainian energy firm caught between US presidential rivals

The company was a focal point of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial over its connections to Democrat Joe Biden - and as the US election draws closer, it is in the spotlight once again

Biden Trump debate - Flickr Adam Schultz Biden for President

Biden and Trump have locked horns on the election campaign trail (Credit: Flickr/Adam Schultz/Biden for President)

The once little-known Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings found itself thrust into the centre of a presidential impeachment storm earlier this year, over its ties to the son of former US vice-president Joe Biden.

The company’s name surfaced repeatedly throughout investigations into President Donald Trump’s conduct in office, amid allegations he attempted to coerce leaders in Ukraine into digging dirt on a potential rival in the upcoming US election.

Trump was ultimately acquitted of his impeachment charges, which comprised allegations of an abuse of power and the obstruction of Congress.

But with former vice-president Biden now battling Trump in the upcoming election, and a bitter campaign trail entering its final weeks, Burisma is once again in the spotlight.

 

Why is Burisma significant?

Biden’s son Hunter joined Burisma in 2014 as a board member — around the same time his father was serving under President Obama — holding the position for five years.

Trump argues for a conflict of interests — and even alleges corruption — between Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma and his father’s political activity in the country during the Obama administration.

Biden had been tasked by Obama with overseeing US political activities in Ukraine, primarily advocating for anti-corruption reforms in the country’s energy industry.

In a now-infamous July 2019 phone call, Trump allegedly asked Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate both Bidens in return for political favours.

Critics called this an attempt to strongarm the country into discrediting a political opponent ahead of the 2020 election, with Biden considered by many at that time as the Democratic candidate most likely to challenge Trump.

Despite the impeachment acquittal, the discourse surrounding Trump, Biden and Burisma has not gone away – and amid all this furore, the energy company has skyrocketed into the public consciousness on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

What is Burisma Holdings?

Founded in 2002, Burisma Holdings is an oil and natural gas company owned by Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky.

He is a businessman who previously served in public office in the country, and one who has been the subject of fraud investigations — although never convicted.

The business — which is based in Kyiv (Kiev) but registered in Cyprus — is a holding company for several subsidiaries in the energy industry, including Esko-Pivnich, Pari, Persha Ukrainska Naftogazova Kompaniya, Naftogaz Garant, KUB-Gas and Astroinvest Ukraine.

It is one of the largest natural gas operators in Ukraine, as well as having further interests in Germany, Mexico, Italy and Kazakhstan.

According to the company, it produced 1.3 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in 2018, and while it does not disclose its financial results, estimates by news agency Reuters suggest this level of production could have generated revenues upwards of $400m.

 

The Biden connection

In 2014, Hunter Biden — who was at a loose end having been discharged from the US Navy for a positive cocaine drug test — joined the board of Burisma, earning a reported monthly salary of $50,000.

At the time, Reuters cited a statement from Hunter Biden which appeared on the Burisma website, in which he said his role would be to help the company with “transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion” along with other issues.

what is burisma

His appointment raised a few eyebrows in political and industry circles, given his father’s position as Obama’s right-hand man, as well as Burisma’s chequered history and accusations of fraud against its owner.

Burisma had previously been the subject of anti-corruption probes by domestic lawmakers, while its owner Zlochevsky had been investigated by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office as part of a wider inquiry into claims of money laundering in the Ukraine — although this ended in 2018 due to “insufficient evidence”.

Many commentators have suggested Burisma’s hiring of Hunter Biden — along with other high-profile board members including former Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski and former CIA official Cofer Black — were an attempt to deflect attention from corruption investigations and restore some reputational value to its name.

Corporate fraud in Ukraine had become a key issue for vice-president Biden towards the end of the Obama era, and he actively campaigned for reforms in the country — singling out Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in particular as an obstacle in the fight against corruption.

Pressure from Biden, alongside other international figureheads, eventually led to Shokin’s dismissal in March 2016 for, among other things, his failure to adequately investigate Burisma over claims of money laundering and tax evasion between 2010 and 2012.

 

The impeachment inquiry

All these factors constellated in the July 2019 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, which became the focal point of the impeachment investigation and subsequent Senate trial.

A whistleblower complaint led US Democrats to launch their impeachment inquiry in September 2019, after it was alleged Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate both Joe and Hunter Biden to secure damaging information on them.

This was described during the impeachment hearings as a “quid pro quo” in return for the US providing a $400m military-aid package to support Ukraine in its conflict with neighbouring Russia.

what is burisma

It was argued that Trump was seeking to boost his chances against a political rival in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections — something that it is illegal to solicit foreign entities to do.

President Trump has himself argued the Bidens had a nefarious influence and conflict of interests in Ukraine, particularly in regards to the removal of Shokin from office.

 

The 2020 presidential election

Since the impeachment trial was concluded in February, former vice president Biden has become the Democratic challenger to Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election – due to be held on 3 November.

It has been a bitterly contested campaign, defined largely by the two candidates’ differing approaches to the coronavirus pandemic – which has killed more than 200,000 Americans – as well as race relations and climate change.

Yet Burisma continues to feature in political discussions.

The president has not abandoned his claim that the Bidens’ exerted improper influence in Ukraine, while a months-long inquiry has been conducted by Senate Republicans seeking to prove illicit behaviour.

In an update to their investigation, published in September, Republican senators claimed “Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board cast a shadow over the work of those advancing anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine”.

The report – dramatically titled “Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption” – has been criticised, however, for a lack of compelling new evidence to support allegations of wrongdoing against the former vice president.

Democrats have described the probe as a “politically-motivated investigation” designed to “damage [Biden’s] prospects as a challenger to President Trump“.

Burisma’s time under the spotlight of US politics does not appear to be over just yet.

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