- Zelensky says changes are coming in the government, the regions Corruption allegations are the most important for the war
- A former economy minister praised the government’s response
- The ruling party boss threatened officials with prison
KYIV, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that changes in the government, regions and security forces would be announced immediately following corruption allegations almost a year after Russia’s invasion.
Zelensky, elected in a landslide in 2019 on promises to change the way the government operates, did not name in his evening video address which officials should be replaced.
“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – regarding officials at various levels in the ministries and other central state structures, as well as in the regions and in the law enforcement system,” Zelensky said.
The president said part of the crackdown would include increased oversight of foreign travel for official business.
Ukrainian media have reported that a number of cabinet ministers and senior officials may be fired as Zelensky tries to streamline the government.
One of the president’s top allies previously said corrupt officials would be “actively” jailed, setting out a zero-tolerance approach after the allegations came to light.
A HISTORY OF CORRUPTION
Ukraine has a long history of corruption and unstable governance, although there have been few examples since last year’s invasion, as Kyiv sought financial and military support from the West to help fight back against Russian forces.
Anti-corruption police said Sunday they had detained the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of accepting a $400,000 bribe to facilitate the importation of generators into wartime Ukraine last September.
A parliamentary committee agreed on Monday to tighten regulations on public procurement following news allegations that the Ministry of Defense overpaid food suppliers to soldiers. A draft law was to be introduced for the partial disclosure of public procurement prices in times of conflict.
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, quoted by the media, told the commission that the reports were based on a “technical error” and that the money had not passed through.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it was aware of the media report and was investigating the possible crime of embezzlement or abuse of power in public procurement worth more than 13 billion hryvnias ($352 million).
David Arahamiya, head of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, said it was clear after Russia’s invasion that officials needed to “focus on the war, help the victims, cut red tape and stop dubious business.”
“A lot of them got the message. But many of them didn’t unfortunately. We will definitely be jailing actively this spring. If the humanitarian approach doesn’t work, we will do it under martial law,” he said.
Timofij Milovanov, former Minister of Economy, Trade and Agriculture, praised the government’s “proactive and very quick” response to the allegations. He said the deputy infrastructure minister had been sacked with immediate effect and cited the “unprecedented” level of public attention on the issue.
Ukraine, whose economy shrank by a third last year, is heavily dependent on Western financial aid and donors such as the International Monetary Fund and the EU have repeatedly called for more transparency and better governance.
($1 = 36.9250 hryvnias)
Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Olena Harmash; Editing by Peter Graff and Stephen Coates
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