Fact Check: Did Zelensky Order Destruction of Docs Linked to Hunter Biden?

Hunter Biden's business links to Ukraine have been scrutinized repeatedly since the leak of details from his laptop purportedly showing communications with the country's energy firm Burisma, among other items.

Criticism of President Joe Biden's son has been fierce, with him only last week taking legal action surrounding the laptop saga, calling for a probe against allies of former President Donald Trump and others who have made public allegations about him.

Even now, as Hunter looks into legal action surrounding claims attached to the laptop, social media speculation continues, this time linking him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Head Shots Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Hunter Biden
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Left) speaks during the tripartite meeting on January 11, 2023 in Lviv, Ukraine and Hunter Biden (Right)pictured in South Carolina on August, 2022 Getty

The Claim

A tweet posted by @DC_Draino, on January 29, 2023, which has been viewed more than three million times, claimed that "Zelensky" ordered the destruction of files relating to Metabiota, a company that Hunter Biden's former company, Rosemont Seneca, invested in.

@DC_Draino wrote: "Remember when the Pentagon confirmed the US partnered w/46 Ukrainian Bioweapon labs? And Hunter Biden secured millions for 1 of the labs - Metabiota? Well now we have a 2/24/22 letter from Zelensky ordering the destruction of all gov't files for Metabiota."

The tweet includes a screengrab of what appears to be a document, translated as from the "Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Branch State Archive of The Ministry of Ukraine."

The translation states that "...in accordance with the Decree of the President of Ukraine...organized the devastating destruction of personal files of servicemen, employees and staff of the State Institution 'Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine,' Ukrainian Research Anti-Plague Institute. I.I. Mechnikov of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine ', Zhytomyr Regional and Laboratory Centers of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine', which worked together with scientists Metabiot Inc., Battelle."

The @DC_Draino account belongs to conservative commentator Rogan O'Handley.

The Facts

The relationship between Hunter Biden, Metabiota, and Ukraine is not well explained in the tweet, the details of which are important before we consider the translated letter dictating a "Decree of the President of Ukraine."

Metabiota is a San Francisco-based technology company which (according to its website) "strives to protect lives and to prevent, detect, and respond to the impact of outbreaks and epidemics on human and animal health, healthcare infrastructure, and global health security."

An investigation by The Washington Post stated that a firm linked to Rosemont Seneca (Hunter Biden's former investment company) invested money and raised money for Metabiota.

Around the same time, spending records show the U.S. Department of Defense invested more than $18 million into Metabiota. The Post investigation reported that a relatively small proportion of the funding was listed for "Ukraine research programs", as federal contracting records state.

As reported by PolitiFact, since 2005 the U.S. government has partnered with the Ukrainian government, investing $200 million into labs, health facilities, and diagnostic sites, involving a number of companies including Metabiota.

As such, the link between Metabiota, Hunter Biden, and Ukraine here is tenuous. While the firm associated with Rosemont Seneca invested and raised money for Metabiota, there is no link here between the president's son, Zelensky, and the destruction of documents.

Crucially, however, the letter now being shared on social media with the "Decree of the President of Ukraine" ordering the destruction of documents is completely bogus.

The independent Russian news site The Insider pointed out that the letter—which it said had previously appeared on Russian social media—contained a number of mistakes that indicated the text was not written in Ukrainian, including naming conventions, formatting errors, and incorrect references.

This includes a number of phrases and expressions which, The Insider reported, indicate the document was translated from Russian to Ukrainian.

The date on the letter—February 24, 2022—is the day when Russian forces launched their full-scale invasion of Ukraine when Zelensky would have had many pressing issues on his mind.

So, even if the link between Hunter Biden and Metabiota's work in Ukraine was not already weak, the fabricated letter is not evidence that Zelensky was involved in the destruction of papers related to Metabiota.

Newsweek has contacted @DC_Draino, Metabiota, a Hunter Biden representative, and the Office of the President of Ukraine for comment.

The Ruling



The tenuous link between Hunter Biden, Rosemont Seneca, Metabiota, and the Ukrainian government notwithstanding, the "letter" from the Ukrainian government has been debunked.

The letter, which was circulated on Russian social media in 2022, was littered with mistakes that indicated it was translated to Ukrainian from Russian.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek's Fact Check team

False: The claim is demonstrably false. Primary source evidence proves the claim to be false.
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