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Yanukovych Says He Never Met Trump Campaign Chief Manafort Face-To-Face

Viktor Yanukovych
Viktor Yanukovych

Ukraine's ousted President Viktor Yanukovych said on March 2 that he never had a face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort, despite Manafort's extensive work for his government.

Manafort, 68, is accused of money laundering, tax fraud, and banking fraud connected to work he and his partner Richard Gates did for Yanukovych's government from 2006 to 2014, when Yanukovych was ousted by pro-European Maidan street protests and fled to Russia.

In an indictment issued by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Manafort is also charged with acting as a lobbyist for Yanukovych's government without registering with the U.S. Justice Department.

"I always met with him at the same meetings I had with the rest of my advisers. We have never had personal contacts as such," Yanukovych said at a press conference in Moscow on March 2.

Yanukovych said he also "did not personally sign any contracts with Paul Manafort."

"I have not seen or heard Paul Manafort since I left Ukraine," he said, adding that he has never spoken about Manafort with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Manafort earlier this week pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Mueller's primary mission is to investigate alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign and alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

A longtime political consultant, Manafort became Trump's campaign chairman in June 2016 but was fired months later after revelations about the extent of his work for Yanukovych's Party of the Regions.

After Manafort left, Gates continued working with the Trump campaign and assisted Trump's team in the transition period after he won the election.

Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on February 23 and is believed to now be cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax