Yuliia Volodymyrivna Mendel (Ukrainian: Юлія Володимирівна Мендель) is the press secretary in the administration of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. She had previously worked as a Communications Consultant at the World Bank, and had contributed journalistic reporting for The New York Times. Mendel had worked as a journalist for several other media outlets that includes work for Politico Europe, the Atlantic Council, Vice, Spiegel Online and Forbes.
Mendel won a competition for press secretary that was announced by Zelensky on 30 April 2019. Winning from 4,000 other contestants, Mendel was appointed on 3 June 2019.
Ukrainian journalists called for Mendel to resign after a series of incidents when a presidential spokeswoman pushed reporters away from officials, trying to prevent them from asking questions. Journalists of Radio Free Europe have complained Mendel "shoved them away" when trying to approach President Zelensky. Mendel denied pushing the journalist, saying she was trying to protect Zelensky’s "personal space".
Article with allegations about Biden
Mendel had worked as a journalist, and was a coauthor with Kenneth Vogel of an article published in The New York Times on 1 May 2019. The article
detailed how in 2016, then-Vice President Biden successfully pushed Ukraine to oust Viktor Shokin, the country’s top prosecutor who’d been criticized by the U.S. as an impediment to corruption reform. The story suggested the possibility that Biden was motivated to push for Shokin’s removal because the prosecutor investigated the head of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company where the veep’s son Hunter Biden was a board member.
The NYT article by Vogel and Mendel was criticized for errors by other news outlets, including Bloomberg News and The Washington Post. The NYT article by Vogel and Mendel was also criticized by Biden allies, including Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders, who responded
The fact that the NYTs acted as a willing agent for the Trump White House’s lies and defended the paper’s publishing of them, makes this even more eyebrow raising. Have folks learned ANYTHING from the last presidential election?
Conflict of interest
In June 2019, CNN released a story about the conflict of interest of Ms. Mendel, who wrote a story for The New York Times in May while she was a candidate for the government position and kept it secret from the newspaper that she applied for the position. According to Ari Isaacman Bevacqua, a spokesperson for The Times, "had Mendel informed editors of her job application, they would not have given her that assignment, and we would have stopped working with her immediately given this serious conflict of interest".
Lawsuit over corruption article
In 2016, Mendel published an op-ed for Politico Europe revealing rampant corruption in Ukrainian higher education. To demonstrate how corruption worked in reality she described her own case:
I hadn’t paid a bribe in my home country until it was time to defend my doctoral dissertation. I tucked $200 in page six of my manuscript before I handed it to my adviser. His department colleagues insisted on the illicit practice when I complained that my professor refused to touch my thesis for more than three weeks. The deadline was approaching.
Now I watched as my esteemed professor of modern Ukrainian literature thumbed through the pages. My face turned red with shame but I’ll never forget what he said when he found what he was looking for: “Now I see it. Your work is good.”
After Mendel described how she had paid a $200 bribe to her university professor in order to get him to consider her dissertation, he accused her of libel and of making “an attack on his honor and dignity”.
The case is ongoing.