KYIV, Ukraine – When the new Ukraine Top prosecutor announced Friday that his office would review several previous corruption casesraised questions about whether the government of the country had agreed to the same pressure as the Trump government that is now provoking aimpeachment inquiry at the capitol.
But for the Kiev political class, Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka's announcement came with a mixture of relief and confusion.
Though shrouded in legal ambiguity, many hope that the move to "audit" past cases handled by former prosecutors with a tarnished reputation can counter years of rampant corruption, allowing Ukraine to face an increasingly worsening diplomatic crisis.
"It's very unpleasant because Ukraine has turned into a high profile American scandal," said David Sakvarelidze, former Ukrainian prosecutor general.
"It's a bit confusing for me, too, because what does auditing mean? You investigate or not. There is no legal procedural term like" audit "."
The prosecutor's office said Friday the review could include about 15 cases involving Burisma Holdings, the gas giant that hired former Vice President Joe Biden's son as a 2014 board member earlier this year.
He did not clearly specify which prosecutor cases would be reviewed, nor details of the review procedure. It was unclear if any of the cases occurred from the time Hunter Biden was hired by the company.
The investigation should target cases that "were closed in violation of the law or other procedural violations," said Riaboshapka – possibly leaving the door open for them to be revived.
But it was clear that the review was not instigated by the president's office.
"Their office does not interfere with our work," he told NBC News on Friday.
However, the timing of Friday's announcement attracted frantic coverage from the US press.
Full Coverage: Trump impeachment inquiry
During Call of President Donald Trump in the middle of summer with Ukrainian President Volodymyr ZelenskiyTrump asked Zelenskiy to investigate why the former prosecutor had apparently closed an investigation into Burisma.
Zelenskiy suggested that he could do so and that a chief prosecutor will enter "100% of me" and "analyze this situation". Riaboshapka took office in August a few weeks after the call.
Texts released Thursday He showed how two US ambassadors also pressured Ukraine to publicly announce that they were investigating Trump's political opponents, explicitly linking this request to the possibility of Zelenskiy receiving a visit to the White House.
Despite evidence to the contraryTrump claims that the elder Biden pressured Ukraine to fire his former prosecutor because he was investigating the company that paid his son.
In fact, the then vice president was among many international figures – including the European Union and the International Monetary Fund – calling for the removal of the prosecutor. This is because he was seen as too weak in tackling Ukraine's endemic corruption problems.
No evidence was found to link Bidens to any illegal activity in Ukraine.
"Squeezed In Scandal"
Despite the ambiguity in Riaboshapka's announcement, at least some Ukrainian lawyers seemed to welcome her as they rejected the suggestions she made at the White House.
That response, Sakvarelidze said, allowed the Ukrainian authorities to stay ahead of the swift impeachment inquiry that threatens their vulnerable country.
Ukraine has historically enjoyed the generosity of foreign powers such as the Soviet Union, Russia, and, more recently, Western Europe and the United States.
Some Ukrainian politicians fear the impeachment inquiry will be disrupt bipartisan support Ukraine has come to expect from Washington.
"It is not in Ukraine's best interest to squeeze into the scandal because it is distracted from the main scandal: Russian aggression and economic crisis," said Sakvarelidze, referring to continuing fighting against Moscow-based separatists in eastern Donbass, Ukraine.
But even more important for some Ukrainians is the chance to combat the corruption that has plagued the country for generations.
Ukraine is routinely mentioned among the countries with the highest levels of corruption. Transparency International, a global corruption advocacy group, ranked Ukraine 120 out of 180 nations in its 2018 Corruption Perception Index.
An analysis of corruption in Burisma Holdings interests Ukrainians far beyond their implications for Trump, Bidens and the 2020 presidential election, said Katya Ryzhenko, head of the legal office at Transparency International Ukraine.
The company's founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, was a former Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources from 2010 to 2012, years after founding Burisma in 2002. He fled Ukraine in 2014 under a cloud of suspicion that he used his position in government to get rich. oil and gas contracts.
"I understand that the whole environment surrounding this announcement is connected to the impeachment situation in the United States," said Ryzhenko.
"But from the Ukrainian point of view, honestly, we are more interested in Mr. Zlochevsky himself … despite any connection or absence of connection with the foreign elements and the foreign people involved."
However, even this limited investigation would not be enough to satisfy the Ukrainians' zeal for curbing the corruption that many think has long delayed their country.
Zelenskiy, a former comic actor who played the president on a TV show, won your unconventional campaignbehind widespread public outrage over corruption and aversion to the political establishment.
Earlier prosecutors have tarnished their position that many ordinary Ukrainians are eager for any sort of reckoning, Ukrainian political and legal analysts said, even if it looks to the outside world as a blow to the Trump administration.
"This case of Burisma for Ukraine is not the biggest deal," said Sergei Leshenko, a former member of parliament who is now an investigative journalist studying corruption.
"We have a lot more criminal cases sabotaged by the previous prosecutor. Including cases that have a lot more money behind them," he added.
"This case for Ukraine and people's daily lives has much less impact than other cases."