Zelensky vows action against corruption in Ukraine: What we know so far

Over the weekend a corruption scandal emerged in Kyiv amid its ongoing conflict with Russia which led to a senior government official from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration being sacked, on Sunday (January 22). Meanwhile, an internal audit was launched by Kyiv’s Ministry of Defence amid allegations of signing contracts for basic food items at inflated prices. Subsequently, Zelensky during his nightly address vowed to take steps to tackle the issue even as officials are promoting national unity amid the ongoing invasion by Russia. 

Which Ukrainian senior minister was dismissed?

In a statement on the messaging app Telegram, on Sunday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced the dismissal of the Deputy Minister of Development of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure, Vasyl Lozynkiy, as per AFP. Furthermore, Zelensky during his address confirmed that he accepted the resignation of a deputy minister but did not mention who he was or what he was accused of. Notably, Lozynkiy was previously detained for allegedly accepting a bribe following an investigation into the case.

Who was Lozynkiy and what was he accused of?

The 36-year-old, Lozynkiy, was the Deputy Minister of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine who took office in 2020 and had been detained on Saturday by the country’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) on suspected embezzlement. According to NABU officials, Lozynkiy received $400,000 “to facilitate the conclusion of contracts for the purchase of equipment and generators at inflated prices”, reported AFP.  

This comes as Kyiv is facing major power outages as Russia has allegedly been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. The dismissal took place on Sunday by the country’s Cabinet of Ministers while Zelensky called this step a “signal to all whose behaviour violates the principle of justice,” as per the Kyiv Independent.  

Ukrainian Ministry of Defence denies corruption allegations

Ukraine’s ministry of defence, on Sunday, denied allegations of what could possibly be the worst corruption scandal in the armed forces since the conflict began nearly a year ago. This comes a day after multiple media reports accused them of signing military contracts at “two to three times higher” than current rates for staple foods like eggs and vegetables, reported AFP. However, the ministry calling the reports “false” asserted that the purchases were made “in accordance with the procedure established by the law”. 

According to the news website ZN.UA, Ukraine’s defence ministry allegedly contracted eggs for $0.46 which would otherwise cost around $0.19 at a shop. Additionally, the reports also suggest that they procured potatoes at more than double the retail price while also signing a contract worth 13 billion hryvnias (over $350 million) for 2023. 

Subsequently, the defence ministry said that they would launch an investigation into how this information is shared as well as the allegations as it “harms the interests of defence during a sensitive period”. Furthermore, the probe will reportedly be conducted by a parliamentary committee. 

The internal audit would also be preceded by an emergency meeting with Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Monday, said the ministry and assured that if violations among defence ministry officials are detected they will be held accountable as per the current laws. 

What has Zelensky said in light of these corruption allegations?

Addressing the country’s chronic problem of corruption, Zelensky has vowed that this week’s key decisions will be directed at uprooting it. Notably, Ukraine has a long history of rampant corruption and political uncertainty as a result, therefore when the incumbent president came into power in 2019 after a landslide victory he had vowed to change the way Ukraine was governed.

“I want this to be clear: there will be no return to what used to be in the past, to the way various people close to state institutions or those who spent their entire lives chasing a chair used to live”, said Zelensky, on Sunday, reported Reuters. He added, “This week will be the time for appropriate decisions. The decisions have already been prepared. I do not want to make them public at this time, but it will all be fair.” 

In 2021, Ukraine’s corruption was ranked 122 out of 180 countries on the list of Transparency International. This aspect has also hindered Kyiv’s bid to become a part of the European Union which had previously made anti-corruption reforms one of its key requirements to consider granting the country the candidate status last year. 

(With inputs from agencies) 


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