Ukraine to investigate leaked tapes with ex-president, Biden

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks to the media during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. At the press conference marking Zelenskiy's one year in office, the president answered questions about domestic affairs, foreign policy and his main achievements. (Sergey Dolzhenko/Pool Photo via AP)

MINSK – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Wednesday that prosecutors have opened a criminal inquiry into leaked tapes that allegedly feature the country's former leader discussing conditions for a $1 billion loan with former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The tapes, which are yet to be authenticated, were released on Tuesday by Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who long has aired unsubstantiated corruption accusations against Biden and his son, who used to serve on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

The recordings don't appear to contain anything that would incriminate Biden or his son and were seen by some observers as a political effort to help U.S. President Donald Trump's reelection bid.

The Ukrainian investigation was opened on treason and abuse of office charges, indicating it was mostly directed against former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko rejected the tapes as a fabrication by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

There was no immediate sign that the probe could be directed against Biden. The Prosecutor General’s Office gave no further details.

Trump last year pressured Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens in a phone call that triggered his impeachment.

Zelenskiy, who carefully avoided taking sides in the U.S. impeachment inquiry, said his predecessor could be in trouble over the tapes.

“They governed the country in such a way that they could face many twists and convictions,” said Zelenskiy, who has repeatedly accused Poroshenko of corruption, accusations the former president has categorically denied.