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Monday, February 6, 2023

Ukraine’s show off against corruption in the Zelenskyy’s administration

The recent staff reshuffle in Ukraine is seen by observers as an attempt by the country’s presidential administration to show that Kiev is taking signals of corruption seriously. This was noted on Tuesday by Reuters, which called the resignation of a number of senior officials the biggest upheaval in government circles in Ukraine since the start of the war.

On Tuesday morning, it was announced the resignation of Deputy Head of Office of Ukrainian President Kyrylo Tymoshenko and Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, head of logistics of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Three other Ukrainian deputy ministers and the Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine were also sacked.

In addition, 5 heads of regional military administrations were removed from their posts: in Kiev, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Dnepropetrovsk regions.

The reasons for the resignations are not disclosed.

The day before, in an evening video message, Volodymyr Zelenskyy had announced “personal decisions among officials at different levels, including law enforcement.”

“The president sees and hears society. And he responds directly to the key public demand – justice for all,” Mikhail Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a cabinet meeting that Ukraine was making progress in its anti-corruption campaign. “This is systematic and consistent work that Ukraine really needs and is an integral part of EU integration,” Shmyhal said.

Last Saturday, Ukrainian investigative journalist Yuriy Nikolov published in ZN.ua information about the inflated prices of food purchases for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Following this, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine announced that it had opened an investigation into possible abuses in the purchase of food for military personnel.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has publicly denied the corruption allegations, calling them “deliberate manipulation”. At the same time, the military department said an internal audit of the process would be conducted and, if violations were found, those involved would be held accountable.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, 33, who retired as deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, has been in the post since 2019, overseeing regions and regional policy, and before that worked for the election campaign of Zelensky. Ukrainian media criticized him for driving a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, which General Motors donated to Ukraine to evacuate citizens from the war zone and on humanitarian missions.

Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine Oleksiy Simonenko, who resigned on Tuesday, has been heavily criticized in the Ukrainian media for spending the New Year with his family in Marbella (Spain).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a televised address on Monday that Ukrainian officials would be banned from traveling abroad during the war for “non-state purposes”.

“If they want to rest now, they will rest outside of state service. Civil servants will no longer be able to travel abroad on vacation or for any other non-state reason,” Zelenskyy explained.

The fight against corruption in Ukraine has become vital.

One of the important factors that commentators pay attention to is that Kiev depends on support from Western countries and seeks to join the EU. European officials have repeatedly stressed that Ukraine needs to strengthen anti-corruption measures both at the legislative level and in key appointments to the specialized anti-corruption prosecutor’s office and the national anti-corruption office.

Commenting on the unexpected resignations in Kiev on Tuesday, political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told Reuters some of the reshuffles were long overdue but were spurred on by a sudden flurry of negative headlines.

“This is both an escalation in the fight against corruption and the president’s reaction to critical media articles,” Fesenko said.

Reuters notes that the upheaval among senior Ukrainian officials is notable as there has been a lack of tangible internal political struggles in the country since the start of the Russian invasion. It has been largely postponed to the future so society can focus on the fight for national survival.

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