Ukraine fires key officials in anti-corruption purge

Kyiv on Tuesday announced the dismissal of a dozen senior officials in its biggest political shake-up since the country’s first major corruption scandal linked to the Russian invasion.

Ukraine has long suffered from endemic corruption, but Moscow’s nearly year-long all-out war has overshadowed the government’s efforts to stamp out bribery.

Western allies have given Kyiv billions of dollars in financial and military aid to resist Russian troops, often conditioning support for anti-corruption reforms.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address on Tuesday that the cleanup was necessary and that additional measures would be taken.

“It is fair, it is necessary for our defense and it helps to bring us closer to the European institutions,” he said. We need a strong country and Ukraine will be just that.

Presidential aide Mykhailo Podoliak said Zelensky had focused on “key priorities of the state” in releasing the officials, who included governors of hard-fought regions and deputy cabinet ministers.

“In times of war, everyone must understand their responsibility,” Podoliak wrote on Twitter.

The upheaval came after Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Communities and Territories Development, Vasyl Lozynski, was sacked at the weekend following his arrest on suspicion of embezzlement.

Photos released by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau show caches of cash seized from Lozinski’s office.

The 36-year-old was accused of accepting a $400,000 bribe to “facilitate” the purchase of overpriced generators as Ukraine grapples with electricity shortages following Russian strikes on its power grid.

‘Good Deals’

On Tuesday, key presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko, who has worked with Zelensky since his election in 2019, announced his resignation.

The 33-year-old posted a photo of himself holding a handwritten resignation letter, thanking the president for “the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute.”

Tymoshenko has been embroiled in several scandals, including the alleged personal use last October of an SUV donated to Ukraine for humanitarian purposes.

He was replaced by Alexei Kuleba, former head of the military administration of the Kyiv region.

High-ranking civil servant Oleg Nemchinov also announced the departure of five regional governors and four deputy ministers.

They include the heads of the central Dnipropetrovsk region, the northeastern Sumy region, the southern regions of Zaporozhye and Kherson, as well as the region around the capital, Kyiv.

In addition, Nemchinov announced the release of two deputy ministers of the development of communities and territories and the deputy minister of social policy.

The Ministry of Defense separately announced the resignation of Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who worked on providing logistical support to the army.

This came after the ministry was accused of signing food contracts at prices two to three times higher than current staple food prices.

Spain holiday

The ministry insisted the allegations were “baseless and groundless” but said Shapovalov’s departure would “maintain the trust of the public and international partners”.

Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Simonenko also resigned after media reports that he was on holiday in Spain, allegedly using a car belonging to a Ukrainian business.

The United States welcomed the dismissals and said none of the billions of dollars in US military aid was known to have been involved.

“The Ukrainian people have been very clear about their desire for good governance and transparency,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Although he is vocal about fighting corruption, Zelensky himself has been involved in corruption scandals in the past.

In 2021, the so-called Pandora Papers, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, said Zelensky used a network of offshore companies to buy three luxury properties in London.

His office said at the time that Zelensky, who is a former actor and comedian, had set up the offshore companies to defend himself against the “aggressive actions” of the “corrupt” regime of pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych.

Transparency International ranks Ukraine 122 out of 180 in its 2021 corruption ranking.

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