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vast anti-corruption operation in Kyiv

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President Zelensky, encouraged by his Western allies, fired a dozen senior officials.

It is arguably the biggest defense corruption scandal to erupt in years in Ukraine, as the country has been trying to repel the Russian invasion for a year. It is in any case the first time that a case of such magnitude has been revealed – resolved – since the start of the war, on February 24th. In all, a dozen public figures were removed from their posts: the governors of five regions (kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporijjia, Sumy and Kherson), and four deputy ministers… Just like the deputy prosecutor general, Oleksii Simonenko. The deputy director of the president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, very close to Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as the deputy defense minister, Viatcheslav Chapovalov, for their part resigned. Tymoshenko is said to have used, for his personal needs, a 4×4 donated by the American company General Motors to deliver humanitarian aid to remote areas of the country, plagued by fighting.

The majority of the charges relate to bribes allegedly received by these officials under army supply contracts. Viatcheslav Chapovalov would thus have participated in the signing of a contract of more than 300 million euros on food products for the soldiers, the costs of which were largely overvalued, according to the local news site Zerkalo Nedeli. On Sunday, the deputy minister in charge of infrastructure was arrested for agreeing, in exchange for several hundred thousand dollars, to the purchase of generators at inflated prices, while millions of Ukrainians are in the grip of power cuts. electricity, Moscow having destroyed the majority of the country’s energy infrastructure. A shortage of electricity which, according to several NGOs, is sometimes fatal, especially for the elderly.

A scourge that plagued Ukraine before the Russian invasion

This flurry of dismissals is part of a series of measures taken in recent months by the kyiv government to tackle a scourge which, even before the Russian invasion, was already plaguing Ukraine, one of the most corrupt in the world according to the NGO Transparency International. Last August, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) and the anti-corruption body, Nabu, for example, searched the town hall, the headquarters of the military administration as well as the homes of senior officials in the Zaporizhia region, on humanitarian aid diversion fund. Investigations had also been opened in other cities of the country. In December, Volodymyr Zelensky had liquidated – only a few hours after the Parliament had voted a text in this direction – the very influential regional administrative court of kyiv, high place of the Ukrainian institutional corruption. Judge Pavlo Vovk, at its head, was considered the most corrupt magistrate in Ukraine, implicated in particular for acts of organized crime.

Foreign partners are scrutinizing Ukraine, especially since so much humanitarian and military aid is flowing there. (…) The government knows that it must show its white paw

Roman Masenko, member of the High Council of Justice

Before the start of the war last year, President Zelensky, despite his rhetoric, had done little to reduce the appalling grip of corruption on all of the country’s institutions, while civil society called for reform depth of the justice sector. What precipitated this turning point, in the middle of the war? “You have to believe that the voice carries a little more in English than in Ukrainian”creaks Roman Masenko, appointed last August by Parliament as a member of the High Council of Justice, a body which appoints – and dismisses – judges in order to ensure that the Ukrainian judiciary is ultimately delivered from its corrupt elements. “Foreign partners are watching Ukraine, especially since so much humanitarian and military aid is flowing there.remarks the lawyer. So, for this financial and material assistance to continue to flow, the government knows that it must show its credentials.” Furthermore, Brussels has already told kyiv that accession to the EU could only take place if the country seriously tackles corruption.

A few days before the liquidation of the kyiv Regional Administrative Court, the US State Department had also included Pavlo Vovk in its list of sanctioned personalities. “for soliciting bribes in exchange for interference in (…) public processes”, remarks Mark Savchuk, who heads a civil society organization responsible for independently monitoring the anti-corruption office Nabu. And, at the same time, Washington was negotiating with kyiv for the delivery of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles. “In sumwe analyze in kyiv, the Ukrainian government was no doubt told by the Americans that it had better get rid of Vovk, otherwise not only might the Patriots pass under its nose, but other notorious criminals within the government might be ‘be next on the list of sanctioned personalities.

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