Marie Louise “Masha” Yovanovitch (born 1958) is an American diplomat and member of the senior ranks of the United States Foreign Service. She served in a variety of State Department posts, including Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2004–2005); U.S.
Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005–2008); U.S. Ambassador to Armenia (2008–2011); Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (2012–2013); and Ambassador to Ukraine (2016–2019). Yovanovitch is a diplomat in residence at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.
- While ambassador to Ukraine
- Early life and education
- Early diplomatic career
- U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and subsequent service
- Writing style
While ambassador to Ukraine
While ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch was subjected to a conspiracy-driven smear campaign, amplified by President Donald Trump and his allies. In May 2019, Trump abruptly recalled Yovanovitch from her post following claims by Trump surrogates that she was undermining Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former vice president and 2020 U.S. presidential election candidate Joe Biden. Yovanovitch’s removal preceded a July 2019 phone call by Trump in which he attempted to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden.
Following revelation of a whistleblower complaint about the phone call and attempts to cover it up, an impeachment inquiry against Trump was initiated by the House of Representatives. Yovanovitch testified in several House committee depositions in the inquiry.
Early life and education
Marie Yovanovitch is the daughter of Mikhail Yovanovitch and Nadia (Theokritoff) Yovanovitch, who fled the Soviet Union and later the Nazis. She was born in Canada, moved to Connecticut at age three, and became a naturalized American citizen at age eighteen. She grew up speaking Russian.Yovanovitch graduated from the Kent School in Connecticut in 1976; her parents were longtime foreign language teachers at the school. Yovanovitch earned a B.A. in history and Russian studies from Princeton University in 1980. She studied at the Pushkin Institute (1980) and was awarded an M.S. from the National Defense University’s National War College in 2001.
Early diplomatic career
From August 2001 to June 2004, as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. From August 2004 to May 2005 she was the senior advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Yovanovitch also served as International Advisor and Deputy Commandant at the National Defense University’s Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy and as dean of the School of Language Studies within the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute.
Yovanovitch joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1986. Her first foreign assignment, in Ottawa, was followed by overseas assignments including Moscow, London, and Mogadishu. From May 1998 to May 2000 she served as the Deputy Director of the Russian Desk in the U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and subsequent service
Yovanovitch is “well known in diplomatic circles for her measured demeanor and diligence in representing both Republican and Democratic administrations.” Yovanovitch was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan on November 20, 2004; she presented her credentials on February 4, 2005, and remained in this post until February 4, 2008. Her nomination as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan was confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote.
This post has been written in descriptive writing style.
Yovanovitch was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Armenia on August 4, 2008; she presented her credentials on September 22, 2008, and remained in this post until June 9, 2011. Her nomination as ambassador to Armenia was again confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote. During confirmation hearings, Yovanovitch acknowledged that Turks had committed mass killings, rapes, and expulsions of Armenians between 1915 and 1923, calling this “one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century,” but, in line with U.S. policy, declined to use the phrase Armenian Genocide, saying that the use of this politically sensitive phrase was a policy decision that could be made only by the highest-ranking U.S. officials, namely President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Yovanovitch was recalled by Trump from her post in Ukraine in May, shortly after the state department had asked her to stay on another year.
“The question before us is not whether Donald Trump could recall an American ambassador with a stellar reputation for fighting corruption in Ukraine,” said House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff, “but why would he want to?”
Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch — “someone who has never been hungry for the spotlight,” as one former State Department official described her — has increasingly found herself there as new developments in the Ukraine controversy have come to light.
The former top US diplomat in Ukraine is set to testify Friday at the second public hearing in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump and Ukraine. In October, Yovanovitch defied the White House by testifying behind closed doors before the three House committees.
She told the investigators she felt threatened after the President used her name on a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a transcript of her testimony that was released earlier this month.
She has been maligned as “bad news” by Trump but is known as “one of the best” to her diplomatic peers.
Since being unexpectedly removed from her post in Kiev in May, Yovanovitch has become increasingly ensnared at the center of the widening scandal.
“I would imagine for her this is pretty much worse than her worst nightmare in that not only are you being publicly criticized and condemned by your head of state but also the idea of all of this public attention. She’s a pretty reserved person,” the former State Department official told CNN.