Ukrainian businessman and major Clinton Foundation donor Victor Pinchuk sought a meeting with Bill Clinton last year over the situation in Ukraine, newly released emails show.
Pinchuk, whose foundation has contributed millions to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, "relentlessly" pushed for a meeting with the former president and possibly other Western leaders to signal "support for Ukraine," according to an email released Monday by Wikileaks in a trove of John Podesta’s hacked communications.
"Victor Pinchuk is relentlessly following up (including this morning) about a meeting with WJC in London or anywhere in Europe," reads the March 2015 email that appears to be written by Ami Desai, the Clinton Foundation's foreign policy director, to other foundation aides. "Ideally he wants to bring together a few western leaders to show support for Ukraine, with WJC probably their most important participant. If that’s not palatable for us, then he’d like a bilat with WJC."
"If it’s not next week, that’s fine, but he wants a date. I keep saying we have no Europe plans, although we do have those events in London in June," the email states. "Are folks comfortable offering Victor a private meeting on one of those dates?"
The message showcases how high-level donors to the Clinton Foundation have been afforded access to the Clintons, fueling questions about the influence they could exert over Clinton if she is elected president.
The message was released not long after a report from USA Today showing how companies that donated to the Clinton Foundation hired lobbyists—some of whom were major Clinton bundlers—to influence the State Department during Clinton’s time as secretary of state. The foundation has been scrutinized for accepting donations from foreign individuals and governments.
It is unclear if the meeting between Pinchuk and Clinton ever took place, though Desai was adamant about giving the businessman a prompt response.
"I get all the downsides and share the concerns. I am happy to go back and say no. It would just be good to know what WJC (and HRC and you all) would like to do, because this will likely impact the future of this relationship, and slow walking our reply will only reinforce his growing angst," the email read, using an acronym for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The email about Pinchuk’s request was written on March 30, 2015, about two weeks before Hillary Clinton formally launched her presidential bid.
Pinchuk is a former Ukrainian member of parliament who founded Interpipe Group, a Ukrainian metallurgical plant. Newsweek reported in April 2015 that Interpipe shipped railway parts and other products to Iran in 2011 and 2012, possibly violating U.S. sanctions on shipments to Iran at the time.
Pinchuk is the fourth richest person in Ukraine, according to Forbes, with a net worth valued at $1.36 billion. His foundation, named after himself, has contributed between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to its donor page.
The Ukrainian businessman’s relationship with the Clintons has previously been subject to scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that Hillary Clinton hosted a dinner involving Pinchuk and other Clinton Foundation donors during her time as secretary of state. The dinner, which took place in June 2012, was referenced in a batch of State Department emails obtained through a public records request by Citizens United.
At the time of the dinner, Pinchuk had retained Doug Schoen, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, as a lobbyist to arrange meetings with the State Department and White House, partially with the intention of pushing for democratization in Ukraine.
According to the newly revealed March 2015 email, Pinchuk indicated last year that he didn’t believe Bill Clinton had done enough to address the situation in Ukraine.
"At this point I get the impression that although I keep saying WJC cares about Ukraine, Pinchuk feels like WJC hasn’t taken enough action to demonstrate that, particularly during this existential moment for the county and for him," Desai said in the email.
"I sense this is so important because Pinchuk is under [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s heel right now, feeling a great degree of pressure and pain for his many years of nurturing stronger ties with the West," the email read.
Ukraine has been embroiled in conflict since Russia invaded the country in 2014 and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in the revolution in February of that year. The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for supporting separatists in Ukraine.
Pinchuk has advocated in Ukraine for closer ties with Western powers, while also acknowledging Ukraine’s necessary relationship with Russia.
"It’s not necessary to be a member of the European Union," Pinchuk told Forbes in 2013, before the revolution. "But European values … will solve a great number of Ukraine’s problems."
"Ukraine cannot be successful without Russia," he added.
Pinchuk counts Bill Clinton among his friends, inviting him to his 50th birthday party in 2010 and attending Clinton’s own birthday the following year. Pinchuk was pictured alongside Chelsea Clinton during her visit to Kiev in 2012.
The Clinton campaign and the Clinton Foundation did not respond to requests for comment. The Victor Pinchuk Foundation also did not return a request for comment by press time.