Ukraine sacks several officials as Zelensky renews anti-corruption push: Live updates

Ukraine sacks several officials as Zelensky renews anti-corruption push: Live updates

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KYIV, Ukraine — Several top Ukrainian officials were fired Tuesday, including the governors of several Ukrainian regions, amid a growing corruption scandal. The move marks the biggest shake-up in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government since Russia’s invasion began 11 months ago.

The Ukrainian ministry, which announced the layoffs on social messaging app Telegram, did not provide details of the reason, but it followed reports that the Ukrainian military had agreed to pay inflated prices for food meant for Ukrainian troops.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Vyacheslav Shapovalov, the deputy minister, had “asked to be fired” following the reports. The ministry said in a statement that relieving Mr. Shapovalov of his duties would “maintain the confidence” of Ukrainians and the country’s international partners.

The firings appear to reflect Mr Zelensky’s aim to reassure Ukraine’s allies, who send billions of dollars in military aid, that his government will show zero tolerance for bribery as it prepares for a possible new offensive by Moscow.

credit…The press service of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, via the Associated Press

Although there were no signs that the procurement scandal was linked to the misappropriation of Western military aid, Mr Zelensky’s actions appeared designed to appease Ukraine’s foreign partners, whose aid now accounts for almost half of Ukraine’s budget.

In addition to the officials named on Tuesday, Mr Zelensky’s own deputy, Kirylo Tymoshenko, resigned. Mr Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the presidential office, was well known at home and abroad, often tasked with providing updates on the war. But Ukrainian journalists have raised questions about his lavish lifestyle and use of state resources.

In particular, he was criticized for driving around in an expensive SUV that General Motors had donated for use in humanitarian missions.

credit…/EPA, via Shutterstock

Ukraine had been struggling to contain rampant corruption long before the invasion. But for many Ukrainians, the sense of common struggle and unity during the war makes the idea that senior officials may be undermining the country’s collective efforts for their own benefit especially galling, especially if the corruption involves the military.

Over the weekend, a Ukrainian newspaper reported that the Ministry of Defense had purchased food at inflated prices, including eggs at three times the price. Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov called the accusations “absolute nonsense” and the product of “distorted information”.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ministry stressed that “the allegations made are baseless and groundless,” but called Mr. Shapovalov’s request for dismissal “a dignified act in the traditions of European and democratic politics, a demonstration that the interests of defense are higher than any cabinets or chairs.

The fact that it took Mr. Shapovalov three days raises serious questions about the Defense Ministry’s commitment to rooting out corruption, said Vitaly Shabunin, director of operations at the Anti-Corruption Center, a Kyiv-based nongovernmental organization.

“A new social contract emerged during the war between civil society, journalists and the government: we will not criticize you as we did before the war, but your reaction to every scandal and inefficiency must be as tough as possible,” said Mr. Shabunin. “The position of the Secretary of Defense violated that agreement.

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