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The jolt of corruption in Ukraine, briefly explained

A the corruption scandal is shaking the Ukrainian governmentwith senior officials stepping aside as Kiev appears eager to assure its western partners of responsible management billion in military and economic aid.

Among the high-profile exits are Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, and defense ministry deputy, Vyacheslav Shapovalovresponsible for overseeing supplies and food for the troops. A deputy attorney general was also fired, as were a handful of regional governors and a few other government ministers.

The actual details of what prompted the quake are a bit murky, and not all of the resignations and expulsions appear to be related. but it comes after at least one report in the Ukrainian media that the Defense Ministry had bought food for the troops at sky-high prices. The Ministry of Defence He said the allegations were a deliberate attempt to mislead, but he said he would conduct an internal audit. Additional supports relationships last week he questioned officials, including Tymoshenko, who appeared to enjoy lavish lifestyles.

This represents the most high-profile reshuffle since last year’s Russian invasion. More details about the alleged bribery are likely to emerge, but it seems clear that Zelenskyy’s government has moved quickly to crack down on any allegations of widespread corruption, particularly from international backers who are providing tens of billions of dollars in assistance from which the ‘Ukraine depends in its fight against Russia. Some critics they also suggested that the reorganization is more of a political move, rather than an actual anti-corruption effort.

In his Tuesday night speech, posted on Telegram, Zelenskyy acknowledged the staff shifts and said that any internal problems “that hinder the state are being cleaned up and will be cleaned up. It is right, it is necessary for our defense and it helps our rapprochement with the European institutions”.

Ukraine it has already fought to root out high-level corruption and strengthen the rule of law, despite Zelenskyy promising to do so when elected in 2019. Supporters of Ukraine in the USA and Europe had long put pressure on Kiev to address these issues, especially as a condition of inviting Ukraine into Western institutions, including perhaps one day joining the European Union. Russia’s large-scale attack last year pushed aside some of these corruption concerns, as Western governments rushed to support Ukraine and Ukraine itself became a global symbol of democratic resistance.

In Ukraine, some civil society groups and anti-corruption forces that had long been critical of the Ukrainian government and Zelenskyi suspended some of their activism as Ukrainian society fully mobilized in the war effort. According to a report on war and corruption in Ukraine released last summerabout 84% of anti-corruption experts have left their activities due to the conflict.

Again, concerns about Ukraine’s approach to corruption never fully dissipated. The chaos of conflict – lots of rapid procurement, an influx of funds and supplies passing through many hands – tends to be fertile areas for potential grafts and can exacerbate existing problems. This is true no matter where the war or who is fighting. Ukraine is no exception.

What we know about the shocks of the Ukrainian government

The recent reshuffle appears to be connected to a few different scandals. Perhaps the most important is this accusation, first reported by the Ukrainian media ZN.UAthat the Ukrainian Defense Ministry had signed a contract for a fee two to three times more for food than retail prices in Kiev. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov dismissed the claims, saying it was a “technical error” and suggesting the leak was scheduled for a meeting of western donors, in an attempt to undermine Ukraine. “Information about the content of food service buyers who have occupied public space is spreading with signs of deliberate manipulation and misleading,” the The ministry said in a statement. The ministry said it was opening an investigation into the “dissemination of intentionally false information”, although it was also conducting an internal audit.

In response to the procurement allegations, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) publicly announced its investigation. Deputy Defense Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov reportedly on Tuesday asked for dismissalso as to “not pose a threat to the stable supply of the Ukrainian armed forces following a campaign of allegations related to the purchase of food services”.

But the reorganization of the Ukrainian government goes further. Tuesday, Tymoshenko, a close associate of Zelenskyy, announced his resignation, saying it was of his “will”. Tymoshenko played a fairly public role during the war, and Ukrainian media reported last year that he drove a donated SUV for personal use (he denied that report). In December, another investigation suggested that Tymoshenko drove an expensive sports car and rented a mansion belonging to a prominent businessman – flashy accessories for a wartime government official. Tymoshenko has She said he rents the house because his is in an area targeted by bombing.

Oleksiy Symonenko, a deputy attorney generalhe was also ousted, following last month’s reports in Ukrainian media that he had gone on a 10-day holiday to Spain during the war. Monday, Zelensky forbidden all government officials to leave the country for something other than official business.

In addition to these high-profile expulsions, a few other deputy ministers and regional governors — including those of Kyiv and Kherson Oblast – they were also fired. According to the Kyiv Independentsome of these officials were implicated in the bribery, while others appear to have just been involved in the reshuffle.

This turmoil also comes days after Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister, Vasyl Lozinskyi, was fired following allegations by Ukrainian prosecutors who stole $400,000 (£320,000) that was to go towards buying aid, including generators, to help Ukrainians weather the winter after Russian attacks severely damaged energy infrastructure. He has not commented on the allegations.

Corruption in Ukraine is once again in the spotlight after a year of war

A few firings and resignations won’t solve Ukraine’s endemic corruption or rule of law problems, just as Ukraine’s stand against Moscow won’t erase all of its underlying governance weaknesses. A bigger question is how widespread these latest corruption cases are and whether the expulsions and resignations now represent a real and sustained effort to crack down or are more of a political reshuffle and public spectacle to reassure Western partners and the Ukrainian public.

Aid Zelenskyy tweeted that the moves show the government won’t turn any of them “blind eyes” to misdeeds. Yet some critics have suggested that it is more of a political shock, e.g that other politicians accused of corruption remain in place.

In 2021, Transparency International had classified Ukraine ranks 122 out of 180 countries for corruption, making it one of the worst offenders. Even on the eve of the invasion of Russia, the United States And European the partners had continued to pressure Zelensky to implement anti-corruption and rule of law reforms. Not those calls stop once the war beginsbut the goal, with legitimate reason, was to support Ukraine’s resistance to Russia and to provide military, humanitarian and economic aid to Kiev.

Even inside Ukraine some of the government’s biggest critics have redirected their energies to the wider war effort, according to a survey of 169 anti-corruption experts who he replied in April 2022. About 47 percent they reported feeling in danger if they continued to fight corruption during the conflict.

This, of course, is why war and conflict can aggravate corruption. Ukraine is fighting for its existence as a state, so of course this is the priority above all else. Government resources, attention and funding all go into mobilizing this, which means that efforts against corruption and rule of law reforms fall by the wayside. Additionally, warfare creates many opportunities for graft, with less time and attention paid to accountability and oversight.

The recent allegations come nearly a year into the war as the West once again prepares to send massive tranches of Ukrainian weapons, including reportedly advanced US tanks. The United States alone has contributed about $100 billion to Ukraine, including military, security and economic assistance. Since November, European countries and EU institutions have made a commitment over €51 billion in assistance to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. As the war drags on, some Western lawmakers question how much aid is flowing into Ukraine and are calling for more accountability for where everything is going. That includes part of the newly installed Republican majority in the US House. Kiev relies on foreign support in its fight against Russia, and repeated hints of misuse could jeopardize it, so it’s no surprise that Kiev is moving quickly to respond.

And that’s perhaps one of the big questions: How much of this is for optics and how much reflects a deeper commitment to those promises of corruption? The WE he lauded Ukraine for making these moves, but a lot will depend on how the investigation unfolds and what they find. However, Ukraine’s efforts to signal to the world – and a domestic public that has sacrificed much for the war – still carries a warning to other officials.

Fatal helicopter crash at Brovary

Deputy Head of the Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko speaks to the press at the scene of the fatal helicopter crash at a kindergarten in Brovary, Kiev Region, northern Ukraine. Tymoshenko resigned this week over a corruption scandal.Evgen Kotenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images