WASHINGTON—Energy Secretary Rick Perry wanted to put two U.S. energy industry veterans on the board of Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, according to text messages written by the former Ukraine special envoy that differ with Mr. Perry’s own account.
The June text messages from Kurt Volker, which were released by House impeachment investigators Tuesday, describe how Mr. Perry and another Trump administration official were concerned leaders at state-owned Naftogaz weren’t pushing hard enough for free-market reforms.
Mr. Perry believed Andriy Kobolyev, Naftogaz’s chief executive, wasn’t doing enough, Mr. Volker said in a text message to Bill Taylor, another American diplomat to Ukraine.
Mr. Volker and Mr. Perry, in close tandem with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had become the so-called “three amigos” pushing the White House’s interests in Ukraine.
“I think Perry is the most negative—sees (Kobolyev) as obstructing both the upstream and downstream opening up of the market,” Mr. Volker texted to Mr. Taylor June 19. “Perry also wants 2 senior US energy industry people on an expanded board.
“Gordon shares this view – but maybe a little less negative,” Mr. Volker said.
The exchange occurred at a time when President Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was asking for an investigation of another Ukrainian energy company and a board post it gave to Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Ukraine’s energy industry has been at the center of the impeachment probe into Mr. Trump amid claims the president made nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine contingent on the Ukrainian president investigating the Bidens. Hunter Biden at the time was a board member at the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Group.
Mr. Perry, who is stepping down later this year, was also a top intermediary between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian government. The Energy Department had been working in Ukraine for years, and Mr. Perry wanted it and Europe to become less dependent on Russian energy.
Mr. Perry has denied reports that he had tried to get Ukrainian officials to put his associates or political donors onto the Naftogaz board or to oust current board member Amos Hochstein, an Obama administration diplomat who had worked closely with Joe Biden.
His spokeswoman has denied that he was trying to push for new board members at Naftogaz. And his staff members have said he was recommending consultants—informal advisers—not paid board members.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month Mr. Perry reiterated those denials. He said Ukrainians asked for suggestions on advisers, possibly board members or consultants.
“They asked us for people who would be good to help either be on their board or consult with them in a global way,” Mr. Perry said. “They needed people giving them advice about energy sector and economics.”
When asked directly whether he was recommending paid board members in response, he said he didn’t recall.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Perry didn’t address specific questions but released a statement saying Mr. Perry stands by his past statements on the issue. “Dating back to 2017, his anti-corruption and regional energy security message has been consistent,” the spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said.
Mr. Sondland has testified to House investigators that he had frequent discussions with Ukraine leaders about transparency and corporate governance at Naftogaz as part of anticorruption efforts in the country.
A lawyer for Mr. Taylor didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
—Shelby Holliday contributed to this article.
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