Top Ukrainian officials ousted in anti-corruption operation


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KYIV, Ukraine — Several senior Ukrainian officials were removed from their posts on Tuesday, including a close adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, in part over corruption allegations, as Kyiv moved quickly to show zero tolerance for corruption that could undermine the confidence of Western nations that have kept the country alive with vast shipments of donated arms and billions in economic aid.

The firings and resignations — including Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff, Kyrylo Tymoshenko; Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov; and Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko – represent the biggest shake-up in the country’s leadership since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last February.

Other civil servants were dismissed from their posts altogether, including several regional governors.

Mykhailo Podolyak, one of Zelensky’s top advisers, tweeted that the president’s ‘personal decisions speak to the state’s top priorities…not blind eyes’ – adding that Zelensky ‘sees and hears society’ and responds to the public’s insistence on “justice for all.”

Another Ukrainian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said some government officials had been complaining for many months about what they saw as a pattern of corruption and predicted on Tuesday that Zelensky’s measures marked “only the beginning”. .”

Republicans in Congress, particularly in the House where they now hold a slim majority, have raised concerns about the accounting for the billions in aid sent by the Biden administration to Kyiv. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), pushed by his right flank, said there should be no ‘blank checks’ for Ukraine, and he promised greater scrutiny .

A senior US official said on Tuesday there was no concern “at this stage” that the news could poison US relations with Ukraine.

But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said there were concerns about how the corruption allegations could resonate in Washington and beyond. “There’s a 100% chance that those who are already prone to repeating Kremlin talking points via social media, and willing prime-time talk show hosts, will use it to fuel their isolationist ideologies.” , the official said.

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Shapovalov’s removal was directly linked to reports in the Ukrainian media that Defense Ministry officials were buying food for the military at prices three times higher than those in local stores.

The ministry denied allegations of wrongdoing, but hailed Shapovalov’s resignation as a confidence-building measure.

On its official Telegram channel, the Defense Ministry said that Shapovalov “asked to be relieved of his duties so as not to threaten the stable support of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” because of “charges related to the purchase of services food”.

However, the ministry also said the charges were “unfounded and groundless” and called Shapovalov’s resignation “a dignified act in the traditions of European and democratic politics.”

Other officials did not immediately give reasons for their resignation.

Tymoshenko, who was a key national adviser to Zelensky, thanked a list of government agencies and officials, including Zelensky, for “trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute,” but he didn’t did not explain his departure.

However, Tymoshenko was at the center of two media investigations into his use of elite automobiles during the war., a local media, reported that Tymoshenko had requisitioned for his personal use a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV that had been donated to the Ukrainian government for humanitarian aid operations.

It was one of 50 Tahoe vehicles that General Motors sent to Ukraine earlier in the year to help distribute aid and evacuate civilians from the war zone. Tymoshenko confirmed he was driving the car but said it was for official use.

Additionally, news site Ukrainska Pravda reported last month that Tymoshenko was recently spotted driving a new Porsche Taycan, costing around $100,000. Tymoshenko confirmed he was driving the car, but said it belonged to a local Ukrainian company and he had used it “three to four times and then returned it a few months ago”.

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Over the weekend, a deputy infrastructure minister, Vasyl Lozynsky, was removed from office in connection with a corruption case brought by Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency.

Ukraine, under pressure from the United States and especially the European Union, has worked aggressively in recent years to root out corruption, which has long been pervasive in government. The new allegations are particularly sensitive and troubling because the country, during wartime, has been totally dependent on donations from foreign countries – in weapons to fight the Russian invasion, as well as in money to keep the economy afloat.

Oleksandr Novikov, the head of Ukraine’s National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, said swift action was needed because Ukrainians expect their leaders to participate in the shared national sacrifice that the war has demanded of them .

“Despite the war, Ukrainians have become more intolerant of corrupt practices and more inclined to behave with integrity,” Novikov wrote in response to texted questions. “Before the war, only 40% of Ukrainians believed that corruption cannot be justified under any circumstances, now – 64%.”

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Some anti-corruption advocates in the country also hailed the dismissals as a necessary step that would send an important message to other members of government. “It’s a healthy sign overall,” said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a Kyiv-based organization funded by the US and EU as well as private donations.

In his usual Monday evening speech, Zelensky said he had made “personnel decisions” in the country’s “ministries, central government bodies, regions and law enforcement system”.

He also said Ukrainian officials would not be allowed to travel abroad for wartime vacations.

“If they want to rest now, they will rest outside the civil service,” Zelensky said.

Shane Harris, John Hudson and Dan Lamothe in Washington contributed to this report.

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