Ukraine ramps up corruption fight as Zelensky races to assure wary Western allies

Ukraine ramps up corruption fight as Zelensky races to assure wary Western allies

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Ukrainian authorities launched criminal cases against six former defense-ministry officials and raided the home of a former political backer of President Volodymyr Zelensky Wednesday, amid a flurry of attempts by Mr. Zelensky to show Western governments that he is serious about an anticorruption drive.

With billions of dollars in aid flowing into Ukraine monthly, Mr. Zelensky is under pressure from Western backers to take a firm stance against endemic Ukrainian corruption. He also faces calls from ordinary Ukrainians who are fighting and dying in the country’s war with Russia to uproot corruption for good.

Chief prosecutor Andriy Kostin said his office had formally notified six former top officials at the ministry of defense and other institutions of the cases. The accusations against the officials range from misuse of funds to embezzling and accepting bribes. Ukrainian security services also raided the home of a former interior minister and accused the head of the Kyiv tax service of fraud.

The raids on the homes of the former minister, Arsen Avakov, and the billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky come amid a housecleaning intended to uproot graft. [Continue reading…]

Orysia Lutsevych writes:

Since 2014, it has been a maxim that Ukraine is in fact fighting two enemies: Russia and corruption. The horrifically destructive Russian invasion is an existential threat to Ukrainian statehood, but corruption both undermines effective resistance in the war and derails Ukraine’s ambitions for closer ties with Europe. Eradicating corruption is now literally a matter of life and death.

Eroding international trust in Ukraine’s government is one of Russia’s key objectives, in the hope that it could slow or reduce western material and political assistance. The narrative that Ukraine is a basket case, unreformable and utterly corrupted, has long been a Kremlin propaganda narrative. In his speech ahead of the invasion, Putin said that, despite the efforts of Ukraine’s anti-corruption bodies, “Corruption has been in full bloom, and it is still in full bloom, more than ever.”

The high-profile corruption scandal that erupted last week, the first since Russia’s full-fledged invasion, was no ordinary affair. Leaked official documents exposed a wildly inflated $350m food-procurement contract signed by the ministry of defence. In another office a deputy minister of infrastructure, Vasyl Lozinskyi, was accused of siphoning money out of a winter aid budget.

Now all eyes in Ukraine and abroad are on the response of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s team and the law-enforcement agencies. The resignation of the deputy defence minister, Vyacheslav Shapovalov, was a good start, and unprecedented, considering he was unlikely to be personally involved in the corrupt deal. The mid-level official in charge of the contract was fired. The defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, spoke at a parliamentary hearing. The national anti-corruption bureau (NABU) started investigating the case before it became public knowledge. If the allegations are substantiated, the case will be sent to the high anti-corruption court (HACC) for trial. [Continue reading…]

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