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Home World News Washington Post World News Ukraine corruption scandal claims several top officials

Ukraine corruption scandal claims several top officials

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KYIV, Ukraine — Several senior Ukrainian officials, including frontline governors, lost their jobs Tuesday in a corruption scandal that has plagued President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government as it grapples with the nearly 11-month-old Russian invasion.

The biggest shakeup in Ukraine’s government since the start of the war came when US officials said Washington was close to approving the supply of M1 Abrams tanks to Kiev, while international reluctance to send tanks to the front against the Russians to send, declined.

Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by corruption, and the new charges come as Western allies funnel billions of dollars to help Kiev fight Moscow.

Officials in several countries, including the United States, have demanded more accountability for the aid given Ukraine’s rampant corruption. While Zelenskyy and his aides paint the firings and firings as evidence of their crackdown efforts, the war scandal could play a role in Moscow’s political attacks on Kiev leaders.

On the streets of the capital, Serhii Bochkarev, a 28-year-old translator, welcomed the moves.

“Corruption during war is totally unacceptable because people give their lives to fight against the Russians and defend the motherland,” he said.

The commotion even hit Zelenskyy’s office. The deputy chief, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, known for his frequent battlefield updates, stepped down when the president pledged to address bribery allegations — including some related to military spending — that embarrassed authorities and Ukraine’s attempts to join of the European Union and NATO could slow down.

Tymoshenko asked to be relieved of his duties. He did not name a reason.

Local media said that Deputy Defense Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov also resigned, citing a scandal involving the purchase of food for Ukraine’s armed forces. Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko also resigned.

A total of four deputy ministers and five governors of front-line provinces would be leaving their posts, the country’s cabinet secretary said on the Telegram messaging app.

Authorities have not announced any criminal charges. There was no direct explanation.

The departure already thinned the ranks of the government following the death of the interior minister, who oversaw Ukraine’s police and emergency services, and others in the ministry’s leadership in a helicopter crash last week.

Tymoshenko joined the presidential office in 2019 after working on Zelenskyy’s media strategy during his presidential campaign. He was under investigation in connection with his personal use of luxury cars and was one of several officials linked in September to the misappropriation of more than $7 million in humanitarian aid destined for the southern Zaporizhzhia region. He has denied the allegations.

On Sunday, a deputy infrastructure minister, Vasyl Lozynsky, was fired for allegedly participating in a network that embezzled budget funds. According to Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency detained him while he received $400,000 in bribes for helping to secure contracts to restore facilities battered by Russian missile strikes. He was placed under house arrest, told to surrender his passport, to wear a surveillance device and not to communicate with witnesses.

In a video address Tuesday, Zelenskyy said: “All internal problems that hinder the state are being cleaned up and will be cleaned up. It is fair, it is necessary for our defense and it helps our rapprochement with the European institutions.”

Analysts say his message was that corruption will not be tolerated.

“It is very difficult to save the country when there is a lot of corruption,” Andrii Borovyk, the executive director of Transparency International Ukraine, a non-profit organization that fights corruption, told The Associated Press.

Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told the AP that the shake-up was “intended to remind officials across the (power) vertical that authorities intend to continue to fight corruption in Ukraine, especially during the war, when literally everything in the country in short. delivery.”

Fesenko, head of the independent think tank Penta Center in Kyiv, said Ukrainian authorities and Western officials “cannot turn a blind eye to the latest scandals”. He said the corruption involved supplies for the military, so the shake-up was “designed to appease Western partners and show Brussels and Washington that their aid is being used effectively.”

In its 2021 global corruption report, Transparency International ranked Ukraine 122nd out of 180 countries, with 180 being the most corrupt. Russia was even lower, at 136.

Entrenched corruption has long made foreign investors and governments wary of doing business with Ukraine. Allegations by Ukrainian journalists and nonprofits of corruption at senior levels of government, in courts and in business have lingered under Zelensky, despite a proliferation of anti-corruption panels and measures, according to a 2020 country report from the US State Department.

A major corruption scandal could jeopardize the tens of billions of dollars the US and its allies are pouring into Ukraine to arm Ukraine’s fighters, keep officials paid and keep the lights on. It could risk sinking bipartisan popular and political support for Ukraine from the United States.

“We welcome the prompt action taken by President Zelenskyy on this matter, as well as the effective action by Ukraine’s anti-corruption institutions, civil society and the media, to ensure effective oversight and accountability for public procurement and to empower those in positions of public trust to be accountable,” the White House National Security Council said in a statement.

Last June, the EU agreed to put Ukraine on the path to membership in the bloc. To join, countries must meet economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles.

Ukraine has also applied to join NATO, but the military alliance is not about to offer an invitation, due to the country’s disputed borders, defense institution shortcomings and, in part, corruption issues .

Meanwhile, in what would be a turnaround, US officials said the Biden administration will approve sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. The decision could be announced as early as Wednesday, although it could take months or years for the tanks to be delivered.

The US announcement is expected in consultation with Germany, which says it will approve Poland’s request to transfer German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, an official said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been made public.

German officials declined to comment on reports of a deal. The newsweekly Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday, without citing a source, that Germany will supply Ukraine with at least one company of Leopard 2 tanks from its own army’s stockpile.

Zelensky, in his video address on Tuesday, seemed concerned that the number of tanks to be sent would be insufficient. “It’s not about five, or ten, or fifteen tanks. The need is greater,” he says.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will address lawmakers on Wednesday, many of whom are pressuring the government to work with allies to supply the tanks.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that the Poles — and other Western allies he did not identify — are already training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland on the leopards.

Also on Tuesday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto suggested his country might consider joining NATO without neighboring Sweden if Turkey blocks their joint effort to join the military alliance. Though he later recoiled, his comments were the first from a senior official in either Nordic country to cast doubt on joining NATO together as the alliance tries to form a united front to counter Russia’s invasion.

Sweden and Finland rushed to apply for NATO membership after the invasion of Moscow, abandoning their longstanding policy of non-alignment. Their entry needs the approval of all NATO members, including Turkey, which has blocked the expansion and says Sweden must crack down on exiled Kurdish militants and their sympathizers.

Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, Malak Harb in Kiev, and Ellen Knickmeyer, Lolita C. Baldor, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine



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