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    Paul Manafort, exjefe de campaña de Donald Trump

    Rick Gates Testifies That Manafort Worked to Help Ukraine ‘Enter the EU'

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    Rick Gates, Paul Manafort's longtime business partner, took the witness stand in Manafort's financial crimes trial for the second time on Tuesday, this time revealing that the former Trump campaign chair had worked on policies to help bring Ukraine closer to the European Union.

    According to Vice News, on the stand, Gates moved away from offering details on alleged financial crimes the two committed in their heyday and instead shed some light on Manafort's work as a campaign consultant for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010.

    Gates claimed that Manafort had signed an annual $4 million advisory agreement to give life to campaign pledges that Yanukovych had campaigned on. One of the policies that Manafort was reportedly working on was called "Engage Ukraine," a project meant to push Ukraine into the European Union, Vice reported.

    "Engage Ukraine became the strategy for helping Ukraine enter the European Union," the publication reported Gates telling prosecutors.

    Although it's unclear how long Manafort worked on this specific project, Gates stated that after Yanukovych resigned from office and fled to Russia in 2014, Manafort began to look elsewhere to replenish his income.

    "They were out of power, so the income streams were more difficult to come by," the 46-year-old said. Per Vice, it was after this that Manafort allegedly opted to tap US banks for a steady stream of income via loans.

    This revelation is notable, considering that Yanukovych left Ukraine during the Maidan protests in Kiev, which painted the ousted official as being in favor of Russia and uninterested in integrating with the EU, an entity the protesters wanted to become closer with.

    Protests began in November 2013 after Yanukovych declined to sign a free trade agreement with the EU, instead opting for close ties to Moscow. The perception that the former president was trying to establish stronger ties with Russia was further strengthened after Yanukovych accepted a $15 billion bailout from Russia that included cheaper gas prices. The bailout was to help boost the faltering Ukrainian economy.

    In the Ukrainian capital, estimates suggest that some 400,000 to 800,000 demonstrators camped out in Kiev to demand that Yanukovych part ways with Russia and partner with the EU.

    Yanukovych's perceived closeness with Russia has also added fuel to the flames of speculation that it was somehow through this connection that Moscow allegedly sent tendrils into the Trump campaign. However, Gates' testimony paints a picture of a lobbyist working to push Kiev West, not East. And he wasn't alone: according to the New York Times, Gates also revealed that the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs aided Manafort with "their policy consulting efforts."

    Gates, who previously pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and lying to the FBI, is considered a key witness for prosecutors trying to pin money laundering and conspiracy charges on Manafort. The Virginia trial focuses on Manafort's alleged bank and tax fraud regarding income he earned in Ukraine and through lobbying efforts on behalf of the country.

    A separate trial in Washington, DC, for charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice, is expected to begin in September 2018.

    Charges against Manafort came out of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and collusion with the campaign of now-US President Donald Trump. Manafort was briefly Trump's campaign chair in 2016.

    The Russian government has repeatedly denied all charges of meddling and collusion, and the Mueller investigation into collusion has so far has turned up mostly financial crimes unrelated to the campaign.

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    Engage Ukraine, Ukraine, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, United States
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