In this Oct. 11, 2012, file photo Hunter Biden waits for the start of the his father's, Vice President Joe Biden's, debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. Vice President Biden�s trip to Ukraine this weekend, June 7-8, 2014, to support that nation�s fragile democracy comes weeks after his youngest son, Hunter, 44, was hired by a private Ukrainian company that promotes energy independence from Russia. Hunter Biden�s employment means he will be working as a director and top lawyer for a Ukrainian energy company during the period when his father and the rest of the Obama administration attempt to influence the policies of Ukraine�s new government, especially on ever-important energy issues since Ukraine is an important natural-gas and petroleum-liquids transit country. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden's visit Saturday to support Ukraine's fragile democracy came soon after his youngest son was hired by a private Ukrainian company that promotes energy independence from Moscow.
Yet that company leases natural gas fields in the breakaway Russian-backed state of Crimea and is owned by a former government minister with ties to Ukraine's ousted pro-Russian president.
The hiring of Hunter Biden, 44, by Burisma Holdings Limited in April was approved by the company's owner, a former senior minister and political ally of Viktor Yanukovych, the exiled Ukrainian president. Yanukovych fled to Russia in February after protests erupted over his efforts to establish closer economic ties with Moscow.
Hunter Biden's employment means he will be working as a director and top lawyer for a Ukrainian energy company during the period when his father and others in the Obama administration attempt to influence the policies of Ukraine's new government, especially on energy issues.
There's no indication that Hunter Biden, his father or Burisma are crossing any legal or ethical lines, although ethics experts appear divided over the implications of Hunter Biden's new job.
American conflict-of-interest laws and federal ethics rules essentially do not regulate the business activities of adult relatives of those who work in the White House.
"The primary problem here is the fact that Hunter Biden has set up a financial arrangement with someone who might have business pending before this administration," said Craig Holman, an ethics expert with Public Citizen, a Washington-based government reform organization.
Joe Biden led the U.S. delegation at Saturday's inauguration of Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, and announced $48 million in additional aid for the Kiev government. Biden met Poroshenko and said "there is a window for peace and you know as well as anyone that it will not stay open indefinitely ... America is with you."
Ukraine is an important natural-gas and petroleum-liquids transit country. Two major pipeline systems carry Russian gas through Ukraine to Western Europe