One of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s sons has become a member of the board of a Ukrainian gas company linked to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Burisma Holdings Ltd. says Hunter Biden, 44, joined its board earlier this month and is now in charge of its legal affairs.
Biden joined Burisma several weeks after Devon Archer joined the board to help recruit investors to the company. Archer, 39, was a college roommate of Christopher Heinz, a stepson of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Former Ukrainian Parliament lawmaker Nikolai Zlochevsky, a member of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, controls Burisma. He also served as Yanukovych’s minister of environmental protection and, later, as minister of ecology and natural resources.
In April 2012, Zlochevsky was named deputy secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council. He held that job until the collapse of Yanukovych’s government earlier this year. Yanukovych fled to Russia.
Both Biden and Archer are employees of Rosemont Seneca Partners, a U.S. investment company. It is affiliated with Rosemont Capital, a private-equity firm that Archer and Heinz co-founded.
In a statement on the Burisma website, Biden said the gas company “can be a strong driver of a strong economy in Ukraine. As a new member of the Board, I believe that my assistance in consulting the company on matters of transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion and other priorities will contribute to the economy and benefit the people of Ukraine.”
Archer issued a similar statement.
Both Vice President Biden and Kerry have publicly expressed support of Ukrainians who demonstrated for closer ties with Europe and drove Yanukovych and his government, which had sought closer relations with Russia, from power.
Yanukovych’s ouster has led to violence between pro-Russia separatist rebels and the country’s military.
In the turmoil, gas has become a focus of the tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine gets most of its gas from the Russian government’s majority-owned gas company, Gazprom. Kiev accuses the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin of unfairly increasing gas prices to punish Kiev for establishing closer relations with the European Union.
Vice President Biden went to Kiev last month to offer U.S. expertise to help expand Ukraine’s domestic gas production.
A State Department spokeswoman had no comment on May 13 about the two men’s new positions with Burisma.
A spokeswoman for the vice president, Kendra Barkoff, said the elder Biden “does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company.”
At the White House news briefing on May 13, presidential press secretary Jay Carney was asked if the appointment of the vice president’s son to Burisma’s board was a conflict of interest. He said it was not. “Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president,” he said.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com