October 7, 2019 / 11:54 PM / a month ago

Perry recommended former ambassador, historian for Ukraine reforms-U.S. Energy Dept

WASHINGTON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry recommended Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s administration talk with Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize winning energy historian, and Carlos Pascual, a former ambassador to Ukraine, on energy reforms, an U.S. Energy Department official said on Monday.

Perry also recommended Zelenskiy’s administration talk to industry experts including Texas businessmen Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American, and Robert Bensh, a frequent visitor to Ukraine, as well as unnamed Energy Department experts on a visit in May for the inauguration the Ukraine president, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Perry attended Zelenskiy’s inauguration as a last minute replacement for U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

The visit has drawn scrutiny as Democrats in the U.S. House have requested documents related to Perry’s activities in Ukraine as part of their impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. Perry himself has not been subpoenaed.

Associated Press reported an unnamed source said Perry had pushed for Bleyzer to be put on the board of Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state oil and gas company, after meeting with Ukrainian officials during his visit.

Perry denied that on Monday.

“That the AP story basically said that we said, ‘You put these people on there’ - is just not correct. I mean that was a totally dreamed up story, the best I can tell,” Perry told a news conference in Vilnius on Monday.

The Energy Department also rejected the report.

“What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” said Shaylyn Hynes, an Energy Department spokeswoman. “That is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist.”

Bleyzer and Bensh did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jeff Marn, a spokesman for Yergin, who wrote the award-winning book the “The Prize”, said it was the first Yergin had heard of being recommended by Perry to Zelenskiy.

But Marn said Yergin, who has advised Perry and the energy secretaries of the previous three administrations, is often recommended as an energy expert to officials.

Marn, a spokesman for IHS Markit, where Yergin and Pascual both work, said he had asked Pascual for comment but had not heard back. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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