Senate Aide Investigated Over Unofficial Ukraine Actions

A senior Capitol Hill employees member who’s a longtime voice on Russia coverage is below congressional investigation over his frequent journeys to Ukraine’s battle zones and offering what he mentioned was $30,000 in sniper gear to its army, paperwork present.

The employees member, Kyle Parker, is the senior Senate adviser for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, generally known as the Helsinki Commission. The fee is led by members of Congress and staffed by congressional aides. It is influential on issues of democracy and safety and has been vocal in supporting Ukraine.

A confidential report by the fee’s director and common counsel, which The New York Times reviewed, mentioned that the gear switch might make Mr. Parker an unregistered international agent. It mentioned that Mr. Parker had traveled Ukraine’s entrance strains carrying camouflage and Ukrainian army insignia and had employed a Ukrainian official for a U.S. authorities fellowship over the objections of congressional ethics and safety officers.

And it raised the likelihood that he was “wittingly or unwittingly being targeted and exploited by a foreign intelligence service,” citing unspecified “counterintelligence issues” that ought to be referred to the F.B.I.

A consultant for Mr. Parker mentioned he had achieved nothing improper. He mentioned Mr. Parker was the goal of a “campaign of retaliation” for making accusations of misconduct towards the report’s authors.

The report so troubled the fee’s chairman, Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, that he really useful Mr. Parker be fired to guard nationwide safety, data present. 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 fee’s Democratic co-chairman, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland. Mr. Parker’s consultant mentioned he had not been requested to resign, and had no plans to.

Mr. Parker remains on the commission pending what three U.S. officers described as a broad investigation into employees conduct, together with the accusations within the report and accusations from Mr. Parker towards the fee’s government director, Steven Schrage, and counsel, Michael Geffroy, who wrote the report.

The investigation is being led by an outdoor regulation agency, mentioned the officers, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to explain the persevering with inquiry. It is unclear whether or not Congress referred considerations to the F.B.I., because the report really useful.

The misconduct investigation has disrupted the Helsinki Commission at a deadly time for Ukraine and its relationship with Congress. The nation has suffered setbacks in its battle with Russia and is determined for extra money and weapons. Republicans are threatening to dam $60 billion in extra help.

In his letter, Mr. Wilson warned that scandal on the fee might jeopardize “future Ukraine aid.”

The Helsinki Commission is a key pro-Ukraine voice, each on Capitol Hill and in Europe. Mr. Parker is certainly one of its longest-serving aides. He is thought in foreign-policy circles as a driving pressure behind a 2012 human rights regulation, the Magnitsky Act, impressed by the dying of the Russian anticorruption crusader Sergei L. Magnitsky.

The report raises the prospect that Mr. Parker’s strident assist for Ukraine crossed moral or authorized strains and that he, a U.S. authorities worker, might need been functioning as an agent of Ukraine. Through his consultant, Mr. Parker denied that.

Representatives for Mr. Cardin and Mr. Wilson referred inquiries to the Office of the House Employment Counsel, which didn’t reply to messages.

Mr. Parker is certainly one of many Americans who poured into Ukraine after Russia’s 2022 invasion. Some provided cash and provides or fought alongside Ukrainian troopers. Others had been dishonest, incompetent or preoccupied with internecine squabbles.

In lectures, podcasts and social media posts, Mr. Parker mentioned he had traveled to Ukraine at least seven times for the reason that invasion started in February 2022, together with to fight zones, describing himself as “the most well-traveled American official in wartime Ukraine.”

Social media images from these journeys present him carrying camouflage and the insignia of Ukrainian models. In one picture, he wears a provincial army administration’s patch. In one other, he wears camouflage and a Ukrainian drone unit patch. In one other, he says he’s “plotting the liberation” of Luhansk with a Ukrainian official.

One video obtained by The Times exhibits him slicing up a Russian hat and urinating on it.

“Mr. Parker’s unofficial travel and media promoting himself as a foreign military interlocutor raise further legal and ethical concerns amid reported Ukrainian military corruption,” the report mentioned.

Mr. Parker’s consultant supplied written solutions to questions on behalf of Mr. Parker on the situation that he not be recognized. He mentioned that “American and Ukrainian security experts” had suggested Mr. Parker to put on camouflage close to the entrance and that he had by no means worn the insignia of the army models that he was accompanying.

He mentioned the urination was “a personal expression of rage and grief” after witnessing proof of Russian brutality.

Mr. Parker’s consultant mentioned these weren’t official journeys. But Mr. Parker has publicly spoken as in the event that they had been. Some of those that traveled with him mentioned they believed that he was on government business. The fee printed {a photograph} of him within the besieged metropolis of Kherson.

In an April 2023 lecture on the University of Maine, Mr. Parker mentioned that, after the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv earlier than Russia’s invasion, he was motivated to go to Ukraine to assist advise American policymakers.

“We have almost no eyes on the ground, no presence,” he mentioned, in line with a recording by The Bangor Daily News, which covered the event and supplied audio to The Times. “So, you know, I feel like that makes the travel even more important, to be able to say, ‘Hey, here’s what I’ve seen.’”

It shouldn’t be unlawful to go to Ukraine’s entrance strains, regardless of State Department warnings towards doing so.

“I don’t answer to the State Department,” he added. “We’re an independent agency.”

He informed congressional officers that no less than a few of his travels had been to influence household he has in Ukraine to go away, in line with two U.S. officers with direct data of the inquiry. Mr. Parker’s consultant mentioned he had helped household evacuate.

Mr. Parker has mentioned he drove to the entrance strains. American officers hardly ever go to the entrance, and solely with heavy safety.

William B. Taylor Jr., a former high U.S. envoy in Ukraine, mentioned such expeditions had been significantly dangerous. “If you’re in the government or have some propaganda value to the Russians,” he mentioned, “the benefits have to be very, very high.”

As employees director when the battle broke out in 2022, Mr. Parker mentioned the fee was on “war footing” and now not needed to comply with guidelines about reporting journey or contacting international officers, the report mentioned. Mr. Parker’s consultant denied this.

The report mentioned Mr. Parker employed a Ukrainian Parliament aide as a fee fellow, regardless of “staff security, ethics and legal objections.”

The report didn’t identify the aide. The Times recognized him as Andrii Bondarenko, who mentioned in messages that he had held an unpaid place for a couple of month in late 2022.

“The idea was to understand how Congress works,” he mentioned. Mr. Bondarenko mentioned he at the moment served within the Ukrainian army.

Mr. Parker’s lecture in Maine raised alarm on the fee.

The report relied on public accounts of the occasion, throughout which Mr. Parker described acquiring gear for Ukrainian snipers.

In the recording, he mentioned a relative in Ukraine had given him $30,000 raised by veterans and volunteers, which he had used to purchase vary finders from Amazon and ballistic wind gauges from a Philadelphia-area producer.

He mentioned he delivered them to Kharkiv on Easter weekend 2022 to “guys who are going to take it up with the snipers in the front.” Range finders are specialised binoculars or monoculars. Wind gauges assist calculate climate variables to line up photographs.

Exporting such gear shouldn’t be essentially restricted, although delivering refined fashions might be. Mr. Parker mentioned he adopted export legal guidelines.

“You never go into wartime Ukraine with an empty suitcase,” he mentioned.

Aishvarya Kavi, Karoun Demirjian and Rebecca Davis O’Brien contributed reporting.

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