kyiv, Ukraine (HPD) — Several top Ukrainian officials, including governors of frontline regions, lost their jobs Tuesday over a corruption scandal that has plagued the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as it grapples with an invasion. Russian that started almost 11 months ago.
The biggest government-level reshuffle in Ukraine since the start of the war came as US officials said Washington was poised to approve sending M1 Abrams tanks to kyiv as international suspicions about sending tanks began to wane. to the front lines against the Russians.
Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 after campaigning on an anti-establishment, anti-corruption government agenda in a country long plagued by corruption, and the new allegations come as Western allies funnel billions of dollars to help kyiv to repel the invasion of Moscow.
Officials from several countries, including the United States, have demanded greater accountability in aid, due to rampant corruption in Ukraine. Although Zelenskyy and his aides describe the resignations and layoffs as evidence that their anti-corruption measures are working, the wartime scandal could give Moscow arguments over its political attacks on the kyiv government.
On the streets of the capital, Serhii Bochkarev, a 28-year-old translator, applauded the news.
“Corruption during the war is totally unacceptable because there are people who are giving their lives to fight the Russians and defend the homeland,” he stressed.
The moves even affected Zelenskyy’s office. Deputy presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko, known for his frequent updates on what’s going on on the front lines, resigned as the president vowed to address allegations of bribery — including some related to defense spending — that have angered authorities and could hinder Ukraine’s attempts to join the European Union and NATO.
Tymoshenko asked to be removed from office, according to a decree signed by Zelenskyy posted online and Tymoshenko’s own social media posts. None explained the reasons for his resignation.
Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov also submitted his resignation, according to local press reports, assuring that his departure was linked to a scandal surrounding the acquisition of food for the Ukrainian armed forces. Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko also resigned from his post.
In all, four deputy ministers and five governors of battlefront provinces would step down, the country’s cabinet secretary said in a Telegram post.
Authorities did not announce any criminal charges and no explanation was immediately released.
The departures weakened the ranks of a government already weakened by the deaths of the interior minister, who oversaw Ukraine’s police and emergency services, and other senior members of the agency who died last week when their helicopter crashed. .
Tymoshenko rose to the presidential office in 2019 after working on Zelenskyy’s press strategy during his presidential campaign. He was under investigation for personal use of luxury vehicles and was one of the officials an investigator from Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Office linked last September to the embezzlement of more than $7 million worth of humanitarian aid intended for the Zaporizhia region, in the south of the country. Tymoshenko has denied any wrongdoing.
On Sunday, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Vasyl Lozynsky was fired for his alleged involvement in a network that embezzled budget funds. Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency detained him while he was receiving a $400,000 bribe for helping arrange contracts for the restoration of facilities hit by Russian missiles, according to Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov. Lozynsky was placed on house arrest, asked to hand over his passport, ordered to wear a monitoring device, and told not to communicate with witnesses.
In a video address on Tuesday, Zelenskyy declared that “any internal problems that hinder the state are being cleaned up and will be cleaned up. It is fair, it is what is necessary for our defense and helps our rapprochement with the European institutions”.
Experts say his message is that corruption will not be tolerated.
“It is very difficult to save the country when there is so much corruption,” Andrii Borovyk, executive director of Transparency International Ukraine, told The Associated Press.
Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told the HPD that the reshuffle is “meant to remind all officials that the authorities plan to continue their fight against corruption in Ukraine, especially during the war, when everything is literally in short supply in the country”.
Fesenko, director of the kyiv-based think tank Penta Center, said Ukrainian and Western authorities “cannot turn a blind eye to the latest scandals.” He assured that the acts of corruption were related to supplies for the armed forces, so the movements “are in order to reassure the Western allies and show Brussels and Washington that their aid is used effectively.”
In its 2021 global corruption report, Transparency International ranked Ukraine 122 out of 180 nations, with the 180th place being the most corrupt. Russia ranked even lower, at 136th place.
Yuras Karmanau, in Tallinn, Estonia: Malak Harb, in kyiv; and Ellen Knickmeyer, Lolita C. Baldor, and Matthew Lee, in Washington, contributed to this report.