Perry's efforts to influence
A week later, Bleyzer and his partner
Perry likely had outsized influence in
The sequence of events suggests the Trump administration's political maneuvering in
Perry made clear during trips to
Perry's spokeswoman said Wednesday that the energy secretary has championed the American energy industry all over the world, including in
"What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company," said
"My gut says it's no crime," she said. "It's just icky."
Zelenskiy's office did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement to AP, Bleyzer denied that Perry helped his firm get the gas deal.
"I believe that Secretary Perry's conversations with Ukrainian government officials, if they in fact took place, did not play any role in Ukrainian Energy winning its bid," Bleyzer said Tuesday. He said the process was competitive and transparent and "will hopefully serve as an example of how the Ukrainian energy market can be opened for new investments."
"Aspect neither sought, nor to our knowledge received, special intervention on its behalf," Flakne said.
As Trump's energy secretary, Perry has flown around the globe to push for
At the urging of Western partners,
Those Western partners also advised
In February, the Ukrainian government opened up bidding for nine oil and gas blocks encompassing 4,428 square miles (11,469 square kilometers) of land. Ukrainian Energy, the joint venture between Bleyzer's investment firm SigmaBleyzer and Cranberg's Aspect Energy, submitted a single bid for the largest block, which covers 1,340 square miles (3,471 square kilometers).
Under the contracts, the winning bidder is awarded exclusive rights to extract petroleum for up to 50 years. After the initial costs are recovered, the company and the government split the profits.
An internal review of the proposals by the
The only competing bidder, UkrGasVydobuvannya, known by the acronym UGV, offered more than
Despite the lower upfront investment, the selection board gave the Americans higher scores for technical expertise and overall financial resources, according to the document reviewed by AP.
Of the nine gas deals awarded on
Two members of the board that helped select the bid winners told the AP that the process is designed to be difficult to improperly influence because it is a mix of government representatives and industry experts.
Roman Opimakh, a commission member who is the head of the State Service of Geology and Subsoil of
Perry, who served 14 years as the governor of
At an energy industry roundtable in
At the same event, which was co-sponsored by the nonprofit
During the same 2018 trip, Perry had a private meeting with then-Ukrainian President
Records suggest Perry has also met regularly with Bleyzer. Visitor logs released by the
Less than two weeks later, Perry was on a plane to
Bleyzer said Tuesday that he had been included in what he described as a brainstorming session with
"I was not aware at any time that my name was recommended by Secretary Perry to the Ukrainian government to act in any capacity," Bleyzer said.
Perry's work in
Perry, who announced last month that he is resigning by the end of the year, has refused to cooperate with the congressional probe. In an
But Perry was at the
Bleyzer and Perry's ties go back at least a decade. As governor, Perry appointed Bleyzer in 2009 to serve as a member of a
The Ukrainian-born Texan cuts a flamboyant figure in the energy world. A 2012 profile in the
A former engineer at
Bleyzer also has ties to Giuliani. In 2008, Bleyzer's company hired Giuliani's former
Bleyzer's company is the primary funder of the
The council, which sponsors events that feature senior
Days after the government in
In an apparent dig at the company competing against Bleyzer and Cranberg for the gas deal, Williams also told Ustenko that the "participation of the state monopoly player" undermined the chances of private companies to win, according to the summary.
What the council's media release failed to mention is that, like Williams, Ustenko serves dual roles. In addition to advising the Ukrainian president, the economist is the longtime executive director of
Less than four weeks later, Ukraine Energy was named the winner of the Varvynska block over the Naftogaz subsidiary.
Bleyzer would not say whether he considered it a conflict for his employee to simultaneously be leading the international trade group while also advocating for his private business interests.
He said the
As with Bleyzer, Cranberg also has longtime ties to Perry.
A graduate of the
In the last 13 months, Cranberg has contributed just over
When Perry campaigned for president in 2011, federal disclosures show his campaign paid more than
Cranberg is also among those who entered through the VIP desk at the
Last year, his company hired Perry's former campaign manager,
Biesecker, Braun and Lardner reported from
Contact AP's global investigative team at [email protected]