Mykola Zlochevsky, the co-founder of Burisma, one of Ukraine's largest natural-gas producers, had served as ecology minister under the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych. After public protests in 2013 and early 2014, the Ukrainian parliament had voted to remove Yanukovych and called for his arrest.
Under the new Ukrainian government, authorities in Kiev, with the encouragement of the Obama Administration, launched an investigation into whether Zlochevsky had used his cabinet position to grant exploration licenses that benefitted Burisma. (The status of the inquiry is unclear, but no proof of criminal activity has been publicly disclosed. Zlochevsky could not be reached for comment, and Burisma did not respond to queries.) In a related investigation, which was ultimately closed owing to a lack of evidence, British authorities temporarily froze U.K. bank accounts tied to Zlochevsky.
In early 2014, Zlochevsky sought to assemble a high-profile international board to oversee Burisma, telling prospective members that he wanted the company to adopt Western standards of transparency. Hunter Biden joined ...the Burisma board in April, 2014.
Vice-President Biden was playing a central role in overseeing U.S. policy in Ukraine, and took the lead in calling on Kiev to fight rampant corruption.... As the former senior White House aide put it, there was a perception that "Hunter was on the loose, potentially undermining his father's message." The same aide said that Hunter should have recognized that at least some of his foreign business partners were motivated to work with him because they wanted "to be able to say that they are affiliated with Biden."
As Hunter recalled, his father discussed Burisma with him just once: "Dad said, I hope you know what you are doing,' and I said, I do.' "
There is no credible evidence that Biden sought Shokin's removal in order to protect Hunter. According to Amos Hochstein, the Obama Administration's special envoy for energy policy, Shokin was removed because of concerns by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the U.S. government that he wasn't pursuing corruption investigations. Contrary to the assertions that Shokin was fired because he was investigating Burisma and Zlochevsky, Hochstein said, "many of us in the U.S. government believed that Shokin was the one protecting Zlochevsky."