Kyiv on Tuesday announced the dismissal of a dozen top officials in its biggest political shake-up since the country’s first major corruption scandal linked to the Russian invasion.
Ukraine has long been plagued by corruption, but Moscow’s nearly year-long all-out war has overshadowed government efforts to eradicate the parasite.
Western allies have committed billions of dollars in financial and military aid to Kiev to counter Russian troops, often conditioning support for anti-corruption reforms.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening speech on Tuesday that the cleanup was necessary and that additional measures would be taken.
“It is fair, we need it for our security and it helps our good relations with European institutions,” he said. “We need a strong state, and Ukraine will stay that way.”
Presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said Zelensky focused on “main priorities of the state” in dismissing officials, including governors and deputy cabinet ministers of regions that have seen heavy fighting.
“In times of war, everyone must understand their responsibility,” Podoliak tweeted.
The shakeup comes after Vasyl Losinsky, the Ukrainian deputy minister for development of communities and regions, was sacked over the weekend following his arrest on suspicion of fraud.
Photographs released by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau showed caches of cash seized from Lozinski’s office.
The 36-year-old is accused of “easily” accepting $400,000 in bribes to buy generators at inflated prices as Ukraine struggles with electricity shortages following Russian strikes on its energy grid.
‘For Good Deeds’
On Tuesday, Kyrillo Tymoshenko, a key presidential aide who has worked with Zelensky since his 2019 election, announced his resignation.
The 33-year-old posted a picture of herself holding her handwritten resignation letter, thanking the president for “the opportunity to do good every minute of every day.”
Tymoshenko has been embroiled in several scandals, including the personal use of an SUV donated to Ukraine for humanitarian purposes last October.
He was replaced by Oleksiy Kuleba, former head of the military administration of the Kyiv region.
A senior government official, Oleg Nemshinov, also announced the departure of five regional governors and four deputy ministers.
Central Dnipropetrovsk region, northeastern Sumy region, southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, as well as leaders in the region surrounding the capital Kyiv include.
Nemsinov also announced the dismissal of two deputy ministers for the development of communities and regions and the deputy minister of social policy.
Separately, the Defense Ministry announced the resignation of Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who worked on providing logistical support to the military.
This came after the ministry was accused of signing food contracts at prices two to three times higher than the prevailing prices for basic food items.
The ministry insisted the allegations were “baseless and baseless”, but said Shapovalov’s departure would “protect the trust of society and international partners”.
Deputy Attorney General Oleksiy Simonenko also resigned following media reports that he was on holiday in Spain, allegedly using a car owned by a Ukrainian business.
The US welcomed the impeachment and said it did not appear to involve billions of dollars in US war aid.
“The Ukrainian people have been very clear about their desire for good governance and transparency,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Despite being vocal against corruption, Zelensky himself has been embroiled in corruption scandals in the past.
In 2021, the so-called Pandora Papers, obtained by the International Federation of Investigative Journalists, said Zelensky used a network of offshore companies to buy three high-end properties in London.
Zelensky, a former actor and comedian, created the offshore companies to defend himself against the “aggressive actions” of pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych’s “corrupt” regime, his office said at the time.
Transparency International ranked Ukraine 122nd out of 180 in its 2021 corruption ranking.