Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko is suing British broadcaster BBC for libel over an article that said Kyiv paid $400,000 to secure a meeting with US leader Donald Trump last year.
Poroshenko issued the libel claim, seen by AFP, over an article published in May this year that said Kyiv paid Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen a “secret payment of at least $400,000” to “fix talks” between Poroshenko and Trump in the White House in June 2017.
The claim, filed through a British law firm, says the news story damaged Poroshenko’s “political and business” reputation and caused him “substantial distress and embarrassment”.
It added that the allegation of “serious corruption” was especially damaging because of Poroshenko’s “promotion of a number of anti-corruption measures in Ukraine”.
A spokesman for the BBC told AFP that it “cannot comment on this ongoing case”.
The article, which was also used in a televised report, was based on “sources in Kyiv close to those involved”.
It said a “high ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer” told the BBC the payment was made as Kyiv’s embassy in Washington “could get Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Trump”.
Poroshenko met with Trump in the White House in June 2017.
There was speculation ahead of the meeting that Trump would refuse to meet the Ukrainian leader.
Washington did not announce the sit-down in advance — as is customary — and when it was described, the White House called it a “drop-in” with the US president.
For three years, ties between Washington and Kyiv have been dominated by efforts to contain a destabilising Russia-backed rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
The crisis has left 10,000 dead and heightened tensions between the West and the Kremlin.
Kyiv has been concerned by Trump often appearing reluctant to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to solve the crisis.
Ukrainians are scheduled to go to polls to elect a president next March.
Poroshenko, who took office in 2014, is widely expected to run but has not yet made an official announcement.
Corruption was among the top reasons that prompted Ukrainians to take to the streets and oust a Kremlin-backed regime in early 2014.
But Ukrainian and Western observers have repeatedly questioned pro-Western Poroshenko’s resolve to reform the country’s kleptocratic system.