Several top Ukrainian officials have lost their jobs in a corruption scandal that has gripped President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government as it grapples with Russia’s nearly 11-month-old invasion, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday, the Ukrainian government announced the dismissal of a number of senior officials over a corruption case related to purchases of supplies for the army at inflated prices, in the first scandal of this magnitude since the start of the Russian invasion.
According to Agence France-Presse, five regional governors, four assistant ministers, and two government agency officials left their posts, in addition to the assistant director of the presidential administration and deputy attorney general.
And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his evening speech on Tuesday, considered the purge process necessary, pledging to take additional measures.
“It is fair, necessary for our defense of our country, and supports rapprochement with European institutions,” he said, adding, “We need a strong country, and Ukraine will be like that.”
The issue comes at a time when Kyiv is asking its Western allies for hundreds of modern tanks and other weapons in preparation for another front attack, while their military and financial support is of crucial importance.
The ZN.UA news website reported that the Defense Ministry signed a contract for food products for the army, at an inflated price. The value of the contract is 13 billion hryvnias (about 324 million euros), with prices set “two to three times higher” than the current prices of basic food products.
The United States welcomed the dismissals and said there was no impingement on billions of dollars in US money to help Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian people have been very clear about their desire for fair governance and transparency,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
vacation in Spain
Accordingly, on Tuesday, Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who was responsible for logistical support for the armed forces, was sacked.
On Monday, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov described the scandal as a “fabricated media attack” based on “false arguments”.
While no link has been revealed between the other departing officials and the scandal, some have been accused of abuses or wrongdoings in recent months.
The assistant director of the presidential administration, Kirillo Tymoshenko, emerged in a number of scandals before and during the invasion of Moscow. He was one of the few collaborators with Zelensky in 2019 and notably oversaw reconstruction projects for facilities damaged by Russian bombing.-
In October, he was accused of using an SUV donated to Ukraine by the US group General Motors for humanitarian purposes. After this was revealed, Tymoshenko announced the transfer of the car to an area close to the front line.--
Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Simonenko was accused of having recently gone to Spain on vacation, while Ukrainian men of fighting age are prohibited from traveling abroad except for professional purposes.
The representative of the government in parliament, Taras Melnichuk, announced that the governors of Dnipropetrovsk regions (center) Valentin Reznichenko, Zaporizhya (south) Oleksandr Starukh, Sumy (north) Dmytro Jivitsky, Kherson (south) Iaroslav Ianushevich, and the capital Kyiv Oleksey Kuleba have left their posts.
Several media outlets accused Reznichenko in November of awarding tens of millions of euros worth of road repair contracts to a group co-founded by his fitness trainer girlfriend.
According to press reports, this man and his counterparts from Sumy, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions are under judicial investigation.
Reports indicated that Kuleba might be appointed to the presidential administration.
Anatoly Ivankevich and Viktor Vishnyov, deputy chiefs of the Ukrainian River and Sea Transport Service, were also removed from their posts.
Other former officials were sacked in Ukraine, which ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index.
On Sunday, the government dismissed Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Vasil Lozinsky on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 bribe “to facilitate the conclusion of contracts for the purchase of equipment and generators at inflated prices, while Ukraine is facing an electricity shortage after the Russian strikes on energy facilities.”
The deputy head of the presidential party, Servant of the People, Pavlo Gallimon, was sacked on Monday, on charges of corruption linked to the purchase of real estate in Kyiv for an amount exceeding his declared income.
Officials in several countries, including the United States, have called for more accountability for the aid, given endemic corruption in Ukraine. While Zelensky and his aides portray the resignations and dismissals as evidence of their anti-corruption efforts, a wartime scandal could play a role in Moscow’s political attacks on the leadership in Kyiv, according to the Associated Press.
The European Union has made fighting corruption one of the main reforms that Ukraine had to implement before it could gain the status of a candidate to join the bloc.
And the Ukrainian Center for Economic Strategy for Research announced that the total amount of Western aid (financial, military and others) to Ukraine could reach $100 billion in 2023, including more than $40 billion for its armed forces.