Zelenskiy marks turmoil after corruption allegations

  • Zelenskiy says changes are coming in government, regions Corruption allegations are most high-profile of war
  • Ex-minister of Economic Affairs praises government response
  • Government party boss threatens officials with imprisonment

KYIV, Jan. 23 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday changes would soon be announced in the government, regions and security forces after allegations of corruption nearly a year after Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskiy, elected by landslide in 2019 on pledges to change the way government works, did not identify which officials should be replaced in his nightly video address.

“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – regarding officials of different levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in the law enforcement system,” Zelenskiy said.

The president said part of the crackdown would include increased scrutiny of travel abroad on official assignments.

Ukrainian media have reported that a number of cabinet ministers and senior officials may be fired as Zelenskiy attempts to streamline the government.

One of the president’s closest allies previously said corrupt officials would be “actively” jailed, outlining a zero-tolerance policy after the allegations came to light.

HISTORY OF CORRUPTION

Ukraine has a long history of corruption and shaky governance, although there have been few examples since last year’s invasion, as Kiev has sought Western financial and military support to help fight Russian forces.

Anti-corruption police said on Sunday they had detained the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 bribe to facilitate the import of generators into wartime Ukraine last September.

A parliamentary committee on Monday agreed to tighten procurement rules following allegations in news reports that the Defense Ministry had overpaid suppliers for food for soldiers. There would be a bill on the partial disclosure of purchase prices in times of conflict.

Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, quoted by the media, told the commission that the reports were based on a “technical error” with no money changing hands.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it is aware of the media report and is investigating the possible crime of appropriation of funds or abuse of power related to purchases worth more than 13 billion hryvnia ($352 million).

David Arakhamia, head of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, said it has been made clear since the Russian invasion that officials should “focus on the war, help victims, cut bureaucracy and stop questionable business”.

“Many of them got the message. But unfortunately many of them didn’t. We will definitely be actively jailing this spring. If the humane approach doesn’t work, we’ll do it in accordance with martial law,” he said. said.

Timofiy Mylovanov, former minister of economy, trade and agriculture, praised the government’s “proactive and very prompt” response to the allegations. He said the deputy infrastructure minister had been fired immediately and pointed to society’s “unprecedented” attention to the matter.

Ukraine, whose economy shrank by a third last year, is heavily dependent on Western financial aid and donors such as the International Monetary Fund and the EU have repeatedly called for more transparency and better governance.

($1 = 36.9250 hryvnias)

Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Olena Harmash; Edited by Peter Graff and Stephen Coates

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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