US Senate aide investigated over unofficial actions in Ukraine

WASHINGTON – A senior Capitol Hill staff member who is a longtime voice on Russia policy is under congressional investigation over his frequent trips to Ukraine’s war zones and providing what he said was US$30,000 (S$40,337) in sniper gear to its military, documents show.

The staff member, Mr Kyle Parker, is the senior Senate adviser for the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Commission.

The commission is led by members of Congress and staffed by congressional aides. It is influential on matters of democracy and security and has been vocal in supporting Ukraine.

A confidential report by the commission’s director and general counsel, which The New York Times reviewed, said the equipment transfer could make Mr Parker an unregistered foreign agent.

It said Mr Parker had travelled Ukraine’s front lines wearing camouflage and Ukrainian military insignia, and had hired a Ukrainian official for a US government fellowship over the objections of congressional ethics and security officials.

And it raised the possibility that he was “wittingly or unwittingly being targeted and exploited by a foreign intelligence service,” citing unspecified “counter intelligence issues” that should be referred to the FBI.

A representative for Mr Parker said he had done nothing wrong. He said Mr Parker was the target of a “campaign of retaliation” for making accusations of misconduct against the report’s authors.

The report so troubled the commission’s chair, Representative Joe Wilson, that he recommended Mr Parker be fired to protect national security, records show. He cited “serious alleged improper acts involving Ukrainian and other foreign individuals.”

“I urgently recommend you secure his immediate resignation or termination,” Mr Wilson, a supporter of Ukraine, wrote in a Nov 1 letter to the commission’s Democratic co-chair, Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland.

Mr Parker’s representative said he had not been asked to resign, and had no plans to.

Mr Parker remains on the commission pending what three US officials described as a broad investigation into staff conduct, including the accusations in the report and accusations from Mr Parker against the commission’s executive director, Mr Steven Schrage, and counsel, Mr Michael Geffroy, who wrote the report.

The investigation is being led by an outside law firm, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the continuing inquiry.

It is unclear whether Congress referred concerns to the FBI, as the report recommended.

The misconduct investigation has disrupted the Helsinki Commission at a perilous time for Ukraine and its relationship with Congress.

The country has suffered setbacks in its war with Russia and is desperate for more money and weapons. Republicans are threatening to block US$60 billion in additional aid.


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