"Needless to say, the notion that US citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch's movements for unknown purposes is disturbing," Lawrence S. Robbins, Yovanovitch's lawyer, said in a statement. "We trust the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened."
Three retired ambassadors who know Yovanovitch expressed shock and horror on Tuesday at the idea that the longtime diplomat was being watched by an American.
"It's horrible, it's unbelievable," retired ambassador Jim Melville said in a telephone conversation with CNN. "The very idea that there were elements, possibly from the US government or connected to the US government, who were trying to end everything we set out to keep our mission safe is simply outrageous."
Retired Ambassador Nancy McEldowney echoed that sentiment.
"I find that really shocking and alarming and the idea that US citizens would be watching over an American ambassador with the approval of the president's personal lawyer is very worrying to me," McEldowney told CNN.
Another retired ambassador said they had "never heard of anything like this."
"It is common for terrorists and former communists to do this to us. It is amazing and incomprehensible that anyone working for the president's personal lawyer is doing this with our ambassador," they told CNN.
The ambassador explained that surveillance is a "real problem" that is "unfortunately very common" for diplomats. Embassies have "surveillance detection teams" – usually locally hired officials – "who are really looking around to see if anyone is showing unjustified interest" in embassy operations, they said.
"There are several possible reasons" for inspecting diplomats, the official said, explaining that he is often used for terrorism or intelligence gathering – sometimes to find embarrassing information about a person.
The official said Yovanovitch might have known he was being watched, noting that in a country like Ukraine this would not be uncommon.
However, Melville said his conscience could have been dependent on "how attentive the host security services are – the Ukrainians in this case – and our own law enforcement personnel and our diplomatic security personnel." It should be noted. "
"It would be something you would trust that the mission and structure would be aware of and keep you protected," he said. "When you're looking for threats, you're looking in certain directions. You're not necessarily checking your own people and you need to trust that they protect you, not that they're working behind you."
Yovanovitch, who was reminded of her post in Kiev in May 2019 following a slander campaign led by Trump's allies, was repeatedly criticized by the US president. He told his Ukrainian counterpart in July 2019 that she "would go through some things," according to a White House transcript of the presidents' conversation – a message that Yovanovitch said he considered threatening.
Asked if they believed it would be helpful for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to defend Yovanovitch's defense in light of the latest developments, Melville and McEldowney criticized the top US diplomat.
"He has not defended anyone in the foreign service. All he seeks is his own back and the president," Melville said. "He has no interest in the good of the service and its people and has made it abundantly clear repeatedly."
McEldowney told CNN that he believes Pompeo is "abandoned in his duty by refusing to talk about diplomats who are loyal, faithful and professional and fulfill their responsibilities and who are being defamed by political attacks."
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on the criticism.
CNN's Kylie Atwood, Kara Scannell and Erica Orden contributed to this report.