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Ukraine details alleged payments to Trump aide from pro-Russians

Ukrainian authorities have released details of payments worth million of dollars that US presidential campaign hopeful Donald Trump’s campaign chief allegedly received from Kiev’s former Russian-backed leaders.

Thursday’s revelations from Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) were followed on Friday by claims by a top lawmaker that Paul Manafort lobbied in favour of a pro-Kremlin party even after February’s 2014 pro-EU revolt pulled Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit.

Both claims have distracted from the Republican nominee’s bid for the White House that has seen Trump trail his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and effectively demote Manafort in an election team overhaul this week.

Manafort served as a public relations adviser to Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych — now living in self-imposed exile in Russia — and his Regions Party between 2007 and 2012.

US news reports surfaced this week suggesting that Manafort may have received $12.7 million (11.2 million euros) in secret cash payments over that period.

NABU late Thursday published 22 entries on payments earmarked for Manafort for work conducted either on behalf of the president or his party.

Its statement stressed that NABU could not be certain that Manafort ever actually received the money — which the 67-year-old firmly denies.

“We emphasise that the mention of Paul Manafort’s name on the list does not mean that he actually got the money because the signatures that appear in the column of recipients could belong to other people,” the NABU release said.

– Secret 2015 visits –

But further damage to the Trump campaign came Friday when lawmaker Sergiy Leshchenko said that Manafort also worked with a Washington lobbying group Podesta that promoted the Regions Party and Yanukovych’s image in the United States.

Leshchenko said Podesta was hired by the now-disbanded Regions Party member Vitaliy Kalyuzhniy.

“A number of people received the money on Manafort’s behalf,” Leshchenko told reporters.

“There were about ten of them, and Vitaliy Kalyuzhniy’s name is the one that appeared most often.”

Leshchenko further alleged that Manafort continued to lobby for Russia’s interests while working on behalf of the Opposition Bloc — a Ukrainian political group formed from the remnants of the Regions Party.

Manafort’s “last contacts with what by then was the Opposition Bloc continued until 2015,” Leshchenko said.

“For example, Manafort came to Ukraine several times last year. The last time this happened was in October 2015.”

He said Manafort worked as a political consultant for the Opposition Bloc in the run-up to Ukraine’s snap parliamentary elections of October 2014 in which the party received less than 10 percent of the vote”.

Leshchenko is a highly respected deputy who previously edited the Ukrainska Pravda investigative news site and later joined President Petro Poroshenko’s party.

There was no immediate response to the latest allegations from Manafort or the Trump campaign team.