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White House: No ethical issues with Veep’s son joining Ukraine gas giant

Published time: May 14, 2014 08:32
Edited time: May 16, 2014 11:13

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

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The White House brushed off questions about any ethical issues on appointing the vice-president's son, Hunter Biden, to a leading post at a Ukrainian gas company. The concerns come amid US attempts to affect Kiev’s energy policy.

Biden Jr. was appointed to board of directors of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer on Tuesday.

Speaking about his new position, Hunter Biden said he will advise on “transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion and other priorities” to “contribute to the economy and benefit the people of Ukraine.”

The decision immediately sparked questions if US actually supported Biden’s promotion, as his father, US Vice-President Joe Biden, has frequently spoken about the need to increase Ukraine's energy independence, including during his recent visit to Kiev.

"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," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also responded bluntly to the questions, saying only that Hunter Biden is a private citizen.

Joe Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff also said “the vice-president does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company."

However, Curtis Ellis, executive director at American Jobs Alliance, told RT that it is a typical Washington politics to exploit a foreign crisis for personal gain.

Hunter Biden (son of Joe Biden) (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images/AFP)

“The US … are trying to portray in the most altruistic and platonic fashion possible. However, it is very difficult to disentangle business interests from national interests,” he said.

Hunter Biden, 44, has a very impressive resume. A graduate of Yale Law School, he serves on the Chairman’s Advisory Board for the National Democratic Institute. He is also a director for the Center for National Policy and the US Global Leadership Coalition, which comprises 400 American businesses, NGOs, senior national security and foreign policy experts.

Former US President Bill Clinton appointed him as Executive Director of e-Commerce Policy and he was honorary co-chair of the 2008 Obama-Biden Inaugural Committee.

The licenses of Burisma Holdings, founded in 2002, cover Ukraine’s three key hydrocarbon basins, including Dnieper-Donets (in eastern Ukraine), Carpathian (western) and Azov-Kuban (southern Ukraine).

The Biden board new appointment came just in time when Gazprom, Russian gas giant, moved Ukraine to a prepaid gas delivery regime and sent Naftogaz, Ukraine’s gas champion, a $1.66 billion bill that is due June 2, or Moscow will halt supplies.

Gazprom is demanding that Kiev pays $485 per 1,000 cubic meters, raised from $268.50 after Moscow was forced to cancel several discounts. Kiev rejects the new price as “politically motivated” and says it will only pay its debt if Gazprom lowers the price back to the previous rate.

Meanwhile, the US may use the critical energy situation in the country to promote its shale energy in Ukraine.

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