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Top Ukrainian officials quit, ousted amid wartime corruption scandal

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Kiev, on January 24, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Several senior Ukrainian officials have resigned or been dismissed by President Volodymyr Zelensky amid a growing corruption scandal.

The resignations and the dismissals — of a  top adviser to Zelensky, four deputy ministers, and five regional governors — came on Tuesday, in part over corruption allegations.

Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, announced his resignation on his Telegram account on Tuesday morning after Ukrainian media reported he was using a vehicle meant for humanitarian purposes and evacuations to go on business trips.

Tymoshenko shared a photo of his resignation letter, saying, “I would like to ask you to dismiss me from the post of Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine at my own request.”

Addressing the allegations, Tymoshenko said the car had been used for official purposes and that he had never hidden the fact that he had been using it.

Within hours of Tymoschenko’s announcement, many more followed him.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksii Symonenko, Deputy Mof Regional Development Ivan Lukerya and Viacheslav Nehoda, and the deputy minister of social policy, Vitalii Muzychenko, were all asked to resign or quit on their own. So did several regional officials.

The Defense Ministry office posted Shapovalov’s resignation letter on its website, saying that Shapovalov, who was “responsible for the logistics of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” had submitted his resignation after a “campaign of accusations” that the ministry said was “unfounded and baseless.”

“Due to the large public outcry, which was largely provoked by unsubstantiated manipulations around the issue of supplying the Armed Forces of Ukraine, there are risks of destabilizing the army supply processes,” the letter said.

“This is unacceptable during the war with Russia. In this situation, the priority is to ensure the stable work of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and to create conditions for transparent, unbiased inspections by law enforcement and other authorized bodies.”

Shapovalov’s resignation followed reports in the Ukrainian media that Defense Ministry officials had bought food for the military at prices triple those found in local stores. The ministry has denied allegations of wrongdoing.

In an address on Monday, Zelensky said that there would be “no return to what used to be in the past, to the way various people close to state institutions” used to live.

Zelensky said he had made “personnel decisions” in the country’s “ministries, central government bodies, regions and law enforcement system.”

He also said that Ukrainian officials would be barred from traveling abroad for vacations during wartime.

“If they want to rest now, they will rest outside the civil service,” the president said.

His comments followed the arrest of Ukraine’s Deputy Infrastructure Minister Vasyl Lozinskyi on Saturday on suspicion of accepting a bribe worth over $350,000 (£285,000) over the supply of electricity generators. He has denied the charges.

Citing a Ukrainian official, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Washington Post said that some in the government had for many months complained about what they saw as a pattern of corruption and predicted Tuesday that Zelensky’s moves marked “just the beginning.”

Transparency International released a report last year that designated Ukraine as the second-most corrupt country in Europe.

Kiev, which has been at war with Russia since last year, has also been under pressure by its Western allies, the United States and especially the European Union (EU), to root out corruption.

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