Before and after NATO countries decided to export "Main Battle Tanks" (MBT) to Ukraine, Ukraine's domestic politics was shrouded in a storm of corruption. The Attorney General, the Deputy Minister of National Defense, and the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Construction have resigned or been dismissed. This was described by the Ukrainian media as the largest personnel transfer since the Russo-Ukrainian War.
After the resignation of a group of senior officials, the controversy continued, and the public even pointed the finger at Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
Ukraine has always been one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, ranking 122 (2021 figures) out of 180 countries or regions on Transparency International's corruption perception ranking, only 14 places higher than Russia.
Although the war united most Ukrainians, official corruption still lingers.
"Egg Gate" Military Food Contract Disturbance
The corruption storm was first ignited by Yurii Nikolov, a journalist with more than 10 years of experience investigating government procurement.
In his article published on January 21, he accused the Ministry of National Defense of purchasing military food in 2023 at two or three times the high price, involving as much as 13 billion Ukrainian hryvnia (equivalent to about 2.8 billion Hong Kong dollars) .
For example, the price of eggs is 17 hryvnias each, but the retail price of each egg in the supermarket in the capital Kyiv is only about 7 hryvnias.
The difference between the purchase price and the actual price will probably be shared between the Ministry of Defense and the food supplier.
Fortunately, the article was released before the payment of this Ministry of Defense contract, which may successfully prevent this potential corruption case from happening.
After the article was published, Defense Minister Reznikov vehemently denied the accusation, arguing that the timing of the disclosure of the Ministry of Defense contract was an intentional sabotage of the 20th NATO aid meeting in Ukraine.
He pointed out that the price of food includes freight, not just the value of the food itself, claiming that the disclosed contract is just a "human error", and the price of eggs should be calculated per kilogram, not per egg.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, right, sits next to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a NATO Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting on Jan. 20.
However, Nikolov retorted that past Defense Department contracts have always been priced per egg.
Another report pointed out that the military station involved in the contract is not the front line of the war, does not involve dangerous transportation, and its price should not be multiplied higher than the price of the food itself.
Nikolov believes that Reznikov's rebuttal shows that he has no desire to fight corruption at all.
Nikolov's article soon led to official action.
On the 23rd, the National Anti-Corruption Agency of Ukraine (NABU) announced the launch of an investigation into the military food contract of the Ministry of Defense.
The following day, Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov resigned.
However, Oleksandr Lemenov, leader of the private anti-corruption organization "StateWatch", believes that Shapovalov is just a "scapegoat."
On the 25th, the Ukrainian media once again revealed that another bulletproof vest contract of the Ministry of Defense was suspected of corruption, saying that the authorities had paid for the purchase, but never received the supply.
While the corruption scandal in the Ministry of Defense is still unsolved, Ukrainian departments at all levels are also facing different corruption scandals.
A large number of senior officials were dismissed for corruption
The first was the resignation of Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian President's Office.
He was earlier revealed by the media to use a General Motors (GM) donated SUV for humanitarian aid for private commuting to and from get off work, and he often drives in and out of a Porsche Taycan owned by a wealthy Ukrainian businessman worth about $100,000.
Because Tymoshenko is in charge of a major government construction project that has been embroiled in corruption scandals several times, his appearance of being too close to wealthy businessmen has attracted major doubts.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
This was followed by the resignation of Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko.
During December and January, he took advantage of Ukraine's official exemption from the travel ban for men aged 18 to 60, and went on vacation to Spain. During this period, he drove through the streets in a Mercedes-Benz provided by another wealthy Ukrainian businessman.
Symonenko's resignation came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky quickly patched a loophole that barred any official from being exempted from leaving the country, except on official business.
It is worth noting that during his previous tenure, Symonenko was accused of obstructing the corruption investigation of the deputy chief of staff to the president, Oleg Tatarov.
Today, Tatarov is still in office.
In addition, the Ukrainian Defense Anti-Corruption Agency also found that a power generation equipment purchase contract of the Ministry of Infrastructure was also overestimated by 280 million hryvnias. The Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Vasyl Lozynsky, who was accused of accepting bribes from it, was arrested on the 21st and arrested the next day. formally removed from office.
Former Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko was revealed to be on holiday in Spain.
(Screenshot of Ukrainska Pravda website)
In addition to the above-mentioned senior officials, one deputy minister of the Ministry of Social Policy, two deputy ministers of the Ministry of Regions and Communities, two deputy ministers of the Ministry of Maritime and River Transport, and the Dnipropetrovsk Region (Dnipropetrovsk Region), Zaporozhye The governors of Zaporizhzhia, Sumy, Kherson and Kyiv were also dismissed.
In addition, one of the top members of Zelensky's "Servant of the People" party was also replaced.
Although Ukrainian officials did not explain in detail why these people were dismissed, the Ukrainian media has revealed that some of them were involved in suspicious scandals such as awarding official infrastructure contracts to relatives and friends, and secretly buying luxury houses in Kyiv.
In a recent routine evening speech, Zelensky also stated that Ukraine "will not go back to the past", as if to show its anti-corruption will.
Anti-corruption or power struggle?
Vitaliy Shabunin, leader of the famous Ukrainian anti-corruption organization "Anti-corruption Action Center" (Anti-corruption Action Center), said that after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, anti-corruption activists, journalists and the government had a tacit understanding that people would not Criticize the government publicly like before the war, but the government must deal with any single corruption case, even minor ones, firmly and quickly.
Shabunin cited the case of corruption in power generation equipment at the Ministry of Infrastructure, uncovered by the official anti-corruption agency, as a good example, and praised Zelensky's authorities for swiftly arresting and firing Deputy Minister Vasyl Lozynsky.
However, at this moment, he still pointed the finger at Defense Minister Reznikov, believing that he had lost public confidence, and that it would be unwise for Zelensky to keep him in office.
In the Ukrainian officialdom where everyone was corrupt in the past, Zelensky, who was born as a political amateur, may have to pragmatically "include" some dignitaries even if he intends to fight corruption.
In contrast to Shabunin's mixed evaluation, Oleksandr Lemenov, another non-government anti-corruption figure nominated above, believes that Zelensky may just use the name of anti-corruption to eliminate dissidents.
Lemenov specifically named Andriy Yermak, the director of the President's Office, and his deputy Tatarov. The first deputy director, Kirillo Tymoshenko, is showing the power struggle nature of these personnel changes.
(Yermark and Tatarov also have opponents in American politics. The only Ukrainian member of Congress sent a letter to warn Biden last summer.)
Looking at the English-speaking public opinion outside Ukraine, the outside world has quite positive comments on Zelensky's anti-corruption personnel transfer. It is generally believed that he does intend to fight corruption, and also intends to show European and American countries that Ukraine is no longer a corrupt country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But the long-standing corruption culture will never disappear overnight.
Now the unresolved controversy involving the Minister of Defense himself shows that the corruption scandal is still the "Achilles' Heel" (Achilles' Heel, which means "Achilles' heel") for Ukraine to continue to win aid from Europe and the United States.
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