Ukraine pledges to radically change personnel as allies jostle for tanks

  • Zelenskiy promises changes in corruption scandal
  • Poland announces its intention to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine
  • Germany hints at tank export approval as allies push

KYIV, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said personnel changes were underway at top and bottom levels, following the most high-profile corruption allegations since Russia’s invasion that threaten to curb Western enthusiasm for the Kyiv government.

Reports of a new scandal in Ukraine, which has a long history of fragile governance, come as European countries bicker to give Kyiv German-made Leopard 2 tanks – the workhorse of armies across Europe which Ukraine says it needs to break through Russian lines and regain territory.

“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – concerning civil servants at different levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in regions and in law enforcement” , Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Monday.

Zelenskiy, who did not identify which officials to replace, said his plans included increased monitoring of foreign travel for official business.

Several Ukrainian media reported that ministers and senior officials could be sacked imminently.

On Sunday, anti-corruption police said they arrested the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 bribe over the import of generators last September, an allegation the minister deny.

A press inquiry accused the Ministry of Defense of overpaying suppliers for soldiers’ food. The vendor said it made a technical error and no money changed hands.

David Arakhamia, leader of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, said officials should “focus on the war, helping the victims, reducing bureaucracy and ending dodgy business”.

“We will definitely actively imprison this spring. If the humane approach does not work, we will do so under martial law,” he said.

“SPRING WILL BE DECISIVE”

At the front, the front lines have been largely frozen for two months despite heavy casualties on both sides.

Ukraine says Western tanks would give its ground troops the firepower needed to break through Russian defensive lines and resume their advance. But Western allies have been unable to reach an agreement on arming Kyiv with tanks, wary of moves that could escalate Moscow.

Berlin, which must approve re-exports of Leopards, said it was ready to act quickly if there was a consensus among allies.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, whose country borders Ukraine, said Warsaw would seek permission to send Leopard tanks to Kyiv and try to take on more.

Germany is not blocking the re-export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the European Union’s foreign minister said on Monday.

US lawmakers have pressed their government to export M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, saying even a token number would help push European allies to do the same.

Britain has announced it will provide 14 Challenger 2 tanks. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he does not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks.

Moscow sought to exert its own pressure.

“All countries that participate, directly or indirectly, in injecting arms into Ukraine and raising its technological level bear responsibility” for the continuation of the conflict, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Both Ukraine and Russia are believed to be planning spring offensives to break the stalemate in what has become a war of attrition in eastern and southern Ukraine.

“If the big Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the ruin of Russia and Putin,” Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence, said in an interview with the Delfi news site.

One person was killed and two injured in a Russian shelling of a residential area in the city of Chasiv Yar on Monday that damaged at least nine high-rise buildings, Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.

“The Russians are deliberately terrorizing and killing the civilian population. And they will pay dearly for that,” he said.

Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield.

“ACT AGAINST THE WEST”

In the 11 months since invading Ukraine, Russia has shifted its rhetoric on war from an operation to “denazify” and “demilitarize” its neighbor to a defense against an aggressive West. Kyiv and its Western allies call it an unprovoked act of aggression.

On Monday, the new general in charge of Russian military operations in Ukraine warned that modern Russia had never experienced such “intensity of military hostilities”, forcing it to carry out offensive operations.

“Our country and its armed forces are today acting against the entire collective West,” Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov told the Argumenty i Fakty news site.

The military reforms, announced in mid-January, could be adjusted to address Russian security threats, including Sweden’s and Finland’s aspirations to join NATO and “the use of Ukraine as a tool to wage hybrid warfare against our country,” he said.

Ukraine has imposed sanctions on 22 Russians associated with the Russian Orthodox Church for what President Zelenskiy called supporting genocide under the guise of religion.

Reports from Reuters offices; written by Costas Pitas and Himani Sarkar; Editing by Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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