"Explicit photos and emails purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden were circulating in Ukraine last year at the same time that Rudy Giuliani was searching for dirt there on former Vice President Joe Biden," Time reports, citing two people approached with the material in May and September of 2019. "The two people said they could not confirm whether any of the material presented to them was the same as that which has been recently published in the U.S.," or whether any of the documents were authentic.
One of the people said when the New York Post published a story about material purportedly taken from a water-damaged laptop left at a Delaware repair shop, "it brought back memories of the same information that was being introduced to us a year ago." The second person told Time the material was offered for sale at a price of $5 million, with the unidentified seller looking to sell it to Republican allies of President Trump, but "I walked away from it, because it smelled awful."
In January, the U.S. cybersecurity firm Area 1 reported that Russia's GRU military hackers had broken into the computer systems of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company Hunter Biden worked for. Selling pilfered private information is so commonplace in Ukraine now it's the "national sport," said Igor Novikov, a former adviser to Ukraine's president, and it really exploded when Giuliani put out the call for dirt on the Bidens. One of the people Giuliani worked with, Andrii Derkach, has been identified by the U.S. government as an "active Russian agent."
"For months, Derkach has been peddling allegations of criminality against Biden that are remarkably similar to the broad strokes of the initial New York Post story," Politico reports. "If Borat was able to compromise Rudy, imagine what a trained intelligence officer could do," quipped former CIA officer Alex Finley.
Russian intelligence often mixes in forged documents with real ones, and anything coming from Ukraine's kompromat market should be treated with caution, as it's "extremely hard to verify, yet very easy to fake," Novikov told Time.
"For those not steeped in the byzantine maze of reporting on Hunter Biden, the story can be pretty hard to follow," Politico notes, but in short, "there are giant blinking warning signs about the documents, their provenance, and the timing of their disclosure." Read more about the "hard drive from hell" at Politico and Time.