Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch calls for appointment of successor, says her book coming out soon
Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who returned to the country on Jan. 31, has called for the United States to officially appoint an ambassador-level diplomat to take the helm at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
Speaking to The New Voice of Ukraine after taking part in a roundtable discussion in Kyiv called “How to support Ukraine and deter Kremlin aggression,” co-organized by Victor Pinchuk Foundation and the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center, Yovanovitch said it was crucial for the United States to decide on an ambassador as soon as possible.
“This is something that concerns me, concerns all of my colleagues as well,” Yovanovitch said.
“All of us have been constantly talking about the need to have an official representative here in Ukraine…The embassy is doing a great job, and (chargé d'affaires) Kristina Kvien is super professional,” Yovanovitch added.
“But it is important to have someone of the rank of ambassador. And of course, the rest of the embassy continues to do vital work,” Yovanovitch said, and pointed to the importance of the role being filled amid a huge buildup of Russian troops and military assets close to Ukraine’s borders. As of today, some 130,000 Russian soldiers are stationed near Ukraine’s eastern border, in Belarus, and in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
Yovanovitch attended the discussion with two other former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine – John Herbst and Steven Pifer.
The U.S. ambassadorial post to Ukraine became vacant after Yovanovitch left the country in April 2019, not having served her full term – she was forced to leave after she became a target of a smear campaign by former U.S. President Donald Trump against his main political opponent, current U.S. President Joe Biden. She later told congressional investigators during the first of Trump’s impeachment trials that there were threats to her security in Ukraine.
The former ambassador was not always a popular figure in the country, due to her passionate support for Ukrainian anti-corruption watchdogs and open criticism of former President Petro Poroshenko’s government for stalling reforms.
Ukrainian officials, such as the former prosecutor general of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, frequently attacked her for allegedly interfering in Ukrainian politics. When the smear campaign against Yovanovitch reached its height, Lutsenko claimed the U.S. ambassador had given prosecutors a list of people that should not be prosecuted – a claim that was never substantiated.
Kvien now represents the United States in Ukraine as the U.S.’ top diplomat in the country. However, this lack of an official ambassador has raised eyebrows, especially since Russia began its military escalation in early October 2021, with some commentators questioning why President Biden has yet to nominate a new candidate for the role a year into his first term.
When on Jan. 4 journalists asked the White House spokesperson Jen Psaki about why Ukraine still has no ambassador, she said that the president “absolutely plans” to offer a nomination, but “just like any position, he’s always looking to find the right person to nominate to fill the role — an important one.”
Yovanovitch, who has not spoken to the press about her experiences in the final days in her post in Kyiv, hinted that soon she might break her silence about the events.
“Here is what I can tell you. I have a book coming out. It is a memoir,” the former ambassador told The New Voice of Ukraine.
“And it is about my whole career, but it is also my time in Ukraine and everything that happened then and the year after I departed Ukraine. The book is called ‘Lessons from the Edge’ and it is going to come out on March 15.”
Despite her bad experience in Ukraine, Yovanovitch remains a passionate advocate for the country. During the discussion, she said that the world must not concede to Russia’s demands for NATO to close its doors to Ukraine, because if Russian President Vladimir Putin gets what he wants, “other dictators in the world will copy his tactics.”
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