Before he became the victor in Ukraine's 2014 snap presidential election, businessman Petro Poroshenko was scrambling to put together a winning campaign. That's when his top strategist met with Paul Manafort, RFE/RL has confirmed.
"We had a meeting, yes, but no relationship" with Manafort's team, Poroshenko spokeswoman Darya Khudyakova confirmed to RFE/RL by phone on August 8.
The confirmation stands in contrast to an official statement sent to RFE/RL from Poroshenko's administration on August 2, which read: "Petro Poroshenko's team has never cooperated with Manafort, nor with his people. Proposals came from them among others, but they were not even considered."
RFE/RL inquired about the meeting between the teams of Manafort and Poroshenko after an email surfaced this month ahead of Manafort's trial, which is playing out in a U.S. district court in Alexandria, Virginia.
The email in question discussed pitching work to someone named "P. P.," a common nickname used to describe Poroshenko.
Manafort faces a litany of charges related to financial crimes and money laundering that stem from his work in Ukraine for former President Viktor Yanukovych.
The possibility of Manafort-Poroshenko cooperation surfaced again when Manafort's former business partner and right-hand man in Ukraine, Rick Gates, testified in court on August 7 that their company had done consulting work for Poroshenko in 2014.
Gates also complained that a $1 million payment for the work was "significantly past due" and "Manafort was quite upset the money had not been sent." It is unclear if the payment was for work he did for Yanukovych or Poroshenko.
Khudyakova declined to give further details about the meeting and directed RFE/RL to then-Poroshenko strategist Ihor Hryniv, who she confirmed had met with Manafort.
Hryniv could not immediately be reached for comment. But he did speak about his meeting with Manafort to Ukraiynska Pravda, telling the Ukrainian news outlet that the two had discussed cooperating on Poroshenko's presidential campaign. He claimed the plan never came to fruition.
"Manafort was trying to offer his services and his strategy for Poroshenko's campaign, and I met him then [in 2014] and listened to his strategy," Hryniv said. "But after these three hours, the conversation with him ended."
According to Hryniv, Manafort very much wanted to work on Poroshenko's campaign and had come prepared with an elaborate strategy, polling numbers, and projections. But Manafort "did not understand that the country changed after the Maidan," Hryniv added.
Hryniv said Manafort's ideas were suitable for the strategy he masterminded as Yanukovych's political consultant in 2009-2010, but not for the post-revolutionary period of 2014.