Top Ukrainian official ousted in anti-corruption drive


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KYIV, Ukraine — Several senior Ukrainian officials were removed from their posts on Tuesday, including a close adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, in part over allegations of corruption, as Kyiv moved quickly to There is zero tolerance for graft that could dent confidence in the West. Fast-track shipments of donated arms and billions in economic aid have kept the country afloat.

The firings and resignations — notably Zelensky’s Deputy Chief of Staff Tymoshenko; Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov; and Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko — represent the freedom of the country’s leadership. It is the biggest personnel change since Russia launched a full-scale invasion last February.

Other officials were simply dismissed, including several local governors.

Zelensky’s senior adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted that the president’s “personnel decisions demonstrate that the nation’s key priorities … are not blinded” — adding that Zelensky “sees and hears society” and is responding to the public Adhere to “justice for justice”. everything. “

Another Ukrainian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said some in the government had been complaining for months about what they saw as a pattern of corruption and predicted on Tuesday that Zelensky’s move would mark the “Just the beginning””

Republicans in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives, where they now have a narrow majority, have expressed concern about the rationale for the billions of dollars in aid that the Biden administration provided to Kyiv. Spurred on by the right, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Ukraine should not be given a “blank check” and promised more oversight.

A senior U.S. official said on Tuesday there was no concern “at this time” that the news would damage U.S.-Ukraine relations.

But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said there were concerns about how the corruption allegations might reverberate in Washington and beyond. “There is a 100 percent chance that those who are already inclined to repeat Kremlin talking points via social media and are willing to host prime-time talk shows will use it to fuel their isolationist ideology,” the official said.

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Shapovalov’s dismissal was directly linked to Ukrainian media reports that Defense Ministry officials were buying food for the army at three times the price in local stores.

The ministry denied allegations of wrongdoing but welcomed Shapovalov’s resignation as a confidence-building measure.

The Ministry of Defense said on its official Telegram channel that Shapovalov was “requested to remove himself from his post so as not to pose a threat to the stable support of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” due to “allegations related to the procurement of food services”.

However, the ministry also said the allegations were “baseless and baseless” and called Shapovalov’s resignation a “worthy act consistent with European and democratic political traditions.”

Other officials did not immediately provide reasons for their resignations.

Tymoshenko, a key domestic adviser to Zelensky, thanked a range of government agencies and officials, including Zelensky, for “the trust and the opportunity to do good every hour of every day,” without explaining. his departure.

However, local media reports said his resignation was at least partly the result of an investigation by local media outlet that said Tymoshenko had ordered a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV donated to the Ukrainian government for personal use for humanitarian aid operations .

It was one of 50 Tahoe vehicles GM sent to Ukraine earlier this year to help distribute aid and evacuate civilians from war zones. Tymoshenko confirmed he was driving the car, but said it was for official use.

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Over the weekend, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Vasyl Lozynsky was sacked in connection with a bribery case brought by Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency.

Under pressure from the United States and especially the European Union, Ukraine has aggressively worked in recent years to root out long-standing corruption in the government. The new allegations are particularly sensitive and troubling because the country has been completely dependent on foreign donations during the war — weapons to fight Russian invasions, and money to keep the economy afloat.

Alexander Novikov, head of Ukraine’s National Service for the Prevention of Corruption, said the swift steps were necessary because Ukrainians wanted their leaders to take part in the national sacrifice that the war required them to make together.

“Despite the war, Ukrainians have become less tolerant of corrupt behavior and more inclined toward honest behavior,” Novikov wrote in response to questions sent by text message. “Before the war, only 40% of Ukrainians believed that Corruption cannot be justified under any circumstances. Situation, right now — 64 percent.”

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Some anticorruption advocates in the country also called the firings a necessary step that would send an important message to the rest of the government. “It’s a generally healthy sign,” said Daria Karenyuk, executive director of the Anticorruption Action Center, a Kyiv-based organization funded by the United States, the European Union, as well as private donations.

In a routine evening address on Monday, Zelensky said he had made “personnel decisions” across the country’s “ministries, central government agencies, regions and law enforcement systems.”

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

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

Shane Harris, John Hudson and Dan Lamothe in Washington contributed to this report.

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