Ukraine fires 2 officials as Zelensky renews anti-corruption push: Live updates

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President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s government fired two more officials on Tuesday, the latest changes to Ukraine’s leadership as part of a renewed push to root out corruption.

Ukraine’s defense ministry said Vyacheslav Shapovalov, the deputy minister, had “asked to be fired” following reports of corruption in military food supplies. The ministry said in a statement that relieving Mr. Shapovalov of his duties would “maintain the confidence” of Ukrainians and the country’s international partners.

This was announced by the General Prosecutor’s Office in a brief statement that she fired a deputy, Alexey Simonenko. Although the statement did not give a reason, Ukrainian media reported that the dismissal came after Mr Simonenko provoked a scandal by taking military leave in Spain.

The firings reflect Mr Zelensky’s aim to reassure Ukraine’s allies – who are sending billions of dollars in military aid to fight the Russian invasion – that his government will show zero tolerance for bribery as it prepares for a possible new offensive by Moscow.

They also appear to reflect a wider shake-up in Mr Zelensky’s government, which has so far remained remarkably unchanged in nearly a year of war. But earlier this month, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denis Monastirsky was killed in a helicopter crash along with several other officials. And on Tuesday, helped shape Ukraine’s wartime goals and led the country’s police, emergency services and border patrol units.

Details of the charges against the officials have not been made public. But over the weekend, a Ukrainian newspaper reported that the Ministry of Defense had purchased food for the military during the war at inflated prices. Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov called the accusations “absolute nonsense” and the product of “distorted information”.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ministry stressed that “the allegations made are baseless and groundless,” but called Mr. Shapovalov’s request for dismissal “a dignified act in the traditions of European and democratic politics, a demonstration that the interests of defense are higher than any cabinets or chairs.

The news came hours after Mr Zelensky said government officials would be banned from traveling abroad for a holiday or other non-official purpose, a move designed to show that corruption would not be allowed to undermine the country’s defence.

Mr. Zelensky said in his night address that he signed a decree approving the travel restriction decision taken by the country’s National Security and Defense Council after the firing of a deputy minister over the weekend over allegations of embezzlement. The president said that within days a border crossing procedure would be developed for officials at all levels of government.

He also signaled there would be a shake-up in his government, saying he had “made personnel decisions” involving ministries, regional governments, law enforcement agencies and other departments.

Senior Advisor to Mr. Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Twitter that these moves show that the Ukrainian president is “directly responding to a key public demand – justice for all.”

Corruption plagued Ukraine long before Russia launched its full-scale invasion 11 months ago, and rooting out corruption remains a priority for both Kyiv and its allies. Billions of dollars worth of weapons and aid have flooded into the country, and the cost of recovery efforts is estimated to be in the billions.

Ukraine is also preparing to combat a possible Russian offensive this spring and allies are preparing to send Kyiv additional billions of dollars materialincluding some of their most advanced weapons.

The European Union has bound candidate status of Ukraine for an overhaul of the rule of law, justice and corruption. In addition to raising concerns about the risk of corruption tainting post-war reconstruction efforts, some US officials concerns expressed that US weapons given to Ukraine could be diverted or stolen for resale.

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