Corruption erupts in Ukraine as the country faces a turning point in the war.
The first substantial reshuffle in kyiv's leadership since the start of the Russian invasion last February has nothing to do with the setbacks on the Donetsk front or the difficult international negotiations to obtain more weapons: the reason is another. old acquaintance of Ukrainian society, political corruption.
Investigations by three Ukrainian media outlets have forced the president, Volodímir Zelenski, to strike down 10 high-ranking government officials and the Prosecutor's Office for alleged bribery cases.
The most controversial replacement is that of the deputy head of the presidential office, Kirilo Timoshenko, who is accused of benefiting from the favor of businessmen who bid for public contracts during the war.
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Timoshenko submitted his resignation on Monday when it was already clear that he would be relieved.
His successor, according to the Ukrainian media, will be the governor of kyiv, Oleksi Kuleba.
newspaper reported last December that Timoshenko uses a Porsche donated by a businessman who was allegedly trying to obtain government contracts.
The journalist Denis Bihus revealed last October that the dismissed politician had also secured a vehicle donated by General Motors as humanitarian aid.
The most serious case to which the deputy head of Zelensky's office is allegedly linked is a possible network of bribes in the Dnipropetrovsk province, where Timoshenko is from, to award public works contracts during the war to like-minded businessmen.
The governor of the province, Valentin Reznichenko, has been dismissed after indications obtained by the Prosecutor's Office that he allegedly handed over a million-dollar contract to repair roads to a businessman friend of his.
, both Zelensky's appointment of Reznichenko in 2020 and his current power depended on Timoshenko.
also discovered that the dismissed leader lives in a mansion owned by a businessman close to political power in Kiev.
In statements collected by the
outlet, Yaroslav Zheleniak, one of the most prominent deputies from Zelensky's party, Servant of the People, assured that the other dismissed governors —those of the Sumi, Kherson and Zaporizhia provinces— had lost their posts due to their links with Timoshenko, without specifying more.
Kuleba, on the other hand, has been relieved as governor of kyiv, predictably to take Timoshenko's place.
Holidays in Spain
In his daily intervention on social networks, the president advanced on Monday that there would be replacements or dismissals because it had been detected that senior officials had left Ukraine on vacation trips.
In Ukraine, men of legal age and up to 65 years of age cannot leave the country because, according to martial law, they are at the disposal of the Army.
published on January 20 that Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksi Simonenko had enjoyed a vacation in Spain last December, and he did so traveling in a high-end car donated by the tobacco businessman Grigori Kozlovski, investigated for tax evasion and tobacco smuggling, according to
Simonenko was also removed from his post.
Especially serious would be the case of the Deputy Defense Minister, already relieved, Viacheslav Shapovalov, accused of granting a holding company a contract valued at around 360 million euros to supply food to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The contract inflated the purchase prices of the food, supposedly to benefit Shapovalov's associates.
A military source leaked the information last week to the digital newspaper
Defense Minister Oleksi Reznikov said on Monday that the
article was a manipulation of a technical error and threatened reprisals from the secret services against the leakers of the contract.
Another senior official dismissed due to a serious corruption scandal is Vasil Lozinskii, who was deputy minister of Community Development and Territory until his arrest last Saturday.
Lozinskii is accused of collecting a bribe of 400,000 dollars [367,688 euros] to grant a contract to purchase electric generators.
The Russian offensive against the Ukrainian electricity grid has caused tens of thousands of establishments, homes and institutions to require diesel generators.
Mark Savchuk, advisor to the National Anti-Corruption Office of Ukraine, confirms to EL PAÍS that the role of investigative journalistic teams "is fundamental against corruption", and specifically cites Bihus and the investigation group
from the American company Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.
is one of Ukraine's most prominent political power scourges, whatever its color.
His investigations into Zelenski's circle of trust have been a headache for the president, and his work has been decisive in the removal of the former governor Reznichenko.
Savchuk also underlines that the independence with which the Anti-Corruption Office and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office act has been demonstrated.
Zelensky had been harshly criticized because he had postponed the election of the anti-corruption prosecutor until last July.
“It was a decision that I understand could not be made when we had the Russians trying to take kyiv,” says Savchuk, “but now that the front has stabilized, the population demanded to continue the fight against corruption, and the president knows that the situation could take its toll on his popularity.”
Timoshenko, specifically, was one of the members of Zelensky's trusted team since the electoral campaign that led him to the Ukrainian presidency in 2019.
Zelensky already took over last July from two important names in political and judicial power, the then head of the secret services, Ivan Bajanov (a childhood friend of the president), and the attorney general, Irina Venediktova.
On that occasion, the political earthquake was not caused by suspicions that they were making irregular profits, but by information that suggested that his departments had not been able to stop the infiltration of Russian collaborators into the Ukrainian Administration.
Zelensky came to power vowing to fight corruption and the power of oligarchs, despite his close ties to powerful businessmen like Rinat Akhmetov.
Last fall, Zelensky's team was criticized by several media outlets for granting a national broadcasting license to a new television channel,
, in record time , promoted by Akhmetov's trusted people and former members of the president's team.
In 2021, Transparency International's corruption perception index placed Ukraine in 122nd place out of 180 countries studied —Russia, in 136th place.
In 2019, the year Zelensky became president, Ukraine had the worst record, at 126. Corruption in Ukraine is still an endemic problem that is detected not only at the highest levels of power, but also at the lowest levels of government. the administration.
Last December, in an interview with EL PAÍS, Paul D'Anieri, a renowned expert on Ukraine from the University of California Riverside, refuted Zelenski's request that Ukraine accede to the European Union as soon as possible: "The best thing is that the EU ask Ukraine to meet high standards because, to be honest, the past has been marked by high corruption and not always by the best democratic practices.
If the EU accepts Ukraine's membership as is, many of the country's problems will not be solved.”
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