Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) – Kyiv announced on Tuesday the dismissal of a dozen top officials amid the country’s biggest political shock since the first major corruption scandal linked to the Russian invasion.
Ukraine has long suffered from widespread corruption, but the government’s efforts to eradicate corruption have been overshadowed by Moscow’s nearly a year-long large-scale war.
Western allies, which allocated billions of dollars in financial and military aid to Kiev to counter Russian troops, often attributed that support to anti-corruption reforms.
President Volodymyr Zelensky is focusing on “fundamental priorities of the state” when dismissing officials, including governors and deputy cabinet ministers of heavily-conflicted regions, Mykhaylo Podolyak, vice-presidential vice president, said.
“In war, everyone must understand their responsibility,” Podolyak tweeted.
“The president sees and hears the community.”
The shaking comes after Ukraine’s deputy minister of development for communities and regions, Vasyl Lozynskiy, was sacked over the weekend after being arrested on suspicion of embezzlement.
Photos released by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau show stashes of cash seized in Lozynskiy’s office.
The 36-year-old Ukraine has been accused of taking $400,000 in bribes to “facilitate” the purchase of generators at inflated prices while battling power outages following Russia’s attacks on its power grid.
On Tuesday, key vice president Kyrylo Tymoshenko, who has worked with Zelensky since the 2019 elections, announced his resignation.
She shared a photo of herself holding a handwritten letter of resignation, thanking the 33-year-old president for “the opportunity to do good work every day and every minute.”
Tymoshenko has been involved in several scandals, including the alleged personal use of an SUV donated to Ukraine for humanitarian purposes last October.
Oleg Nemchinov, a senior government official, also announced the resignation of five regional governors and four deputy ministers.
These include the central Dnipropetrovsk region, the northeastern Sumy region, the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, as well as the heads of regions surrounding the capital Kiev.
Nemchinov also announced the dismissal of two deputy ministers for the development of communities and regions and a deputy minister of social policy.
The defense ministry also announced the resignation of the army’s deputy minister for logistics support, Vyacheslav Shapovalov.
This comes after the ministry was accused of signing food contracts for basic foodstuffs at prices two to three times the current rates.
The ministry insisted the accusations were “baseless and unfounded”, but said Shapovalov’s departure would “retain the confidence of society and international partners”.
Deputy Attorney General Oleksiy Symonenko also resigned after media reports that he was on vacation in Spain, driving a car belonging to a Ukrainian businessman.
In a speech Monday evening, Zelenskiy announced the upcoming “staff decisions” and said authorities are banning him from traveling abroad unless it’s work related.
“If they want to rest now, they will rest outside of the civil service,” Zelensky said.
Despite raising his voice on the fight against corruption, Zelensky himself has been involved in corruption scandals in the past.
The so-called Pandora Papers, acquired by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2021, said Zelensky used a network of offshore companies to purchase three luxury properties in London.
His office said at the time that Zelensky, a former actor and comedian, had formed offshore companies to protect himself against the “aggressive actions” of the “corrupt” regime of then-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Transparency International placed Ukraine at 122nd out of 180 in its 2021 corruption rankings.
Total Western military and financial support for Kiev could total $100 billion this year, including more than $40 billion for its armed forces, according to the Center for Economic Strategy, a Ukrainian think tank.
© 2023 AFP