Ukraine announced Thursday it has opened an investigation into whether former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, shown during a congressional hearing in November, was spied on. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Ukrainian officials said Thursday they have opened an investigation into reports that former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had been placed under surveillance while she served in her official capacity in Kiev.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said newly surfaced text messages between a Republican political candidate and an associate of attorney Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, suggest Yovanovitch may have been illegally followed.
During the House impeachment investigation, Yovanovitch complained of a campaign by Trump to remove her as ambassador to Ukraine.
Robert Hyde, a Florida entrepreneur and Republican political hopeful, suggested in a message last March he had people keeping tabs on Yovanovitch's movements, Ukrainian officials said. That information, released by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, has become part of the Democrats' impeachment efforts against Trump.
"Ukraine's position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America," the ministry's statement said. "However, the published records contain the fact of a possible violation of the legislation of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat in the territory of another country.
"After analyzing these materials, the National Police of Ukraine ... started criminal proceedings."
Hyde has said he was joking with Parnas in their message exchange.
Democrats argue Giuliani and Parnas, at the direction of Trump, were part of a pressure campaign to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, and that Yovanovitch's removal was part of that effort.
Later Thursday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld Congress-approved military aid to Ukraine last year. The funds were ultimately sent to Kiev, but the GAO report said the motive to withhold them violated federal law.