- Zelensky says the upcoming changes in government and regions, and allegations of corruption are the most important in the war
- The former Minister of Economy welcomes the government’s response
- The leader of the ruling party threatens the officials with imprisonment
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday imminent changes in the government, regions and security forces would be announced after allegations of corruption nearly a year after Russia’s invasion.
Zelensky, who was elected overwhelmingly in 2019 on promises to change the way government works, did not specify in his nightly video address which officials would be replaced.
“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – that affect civil servants at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in regions and in the law enforcement system,” Zelensky said.
The president said part of the crackdown would include tighter controls on foreign travel on official business.
Ukrainian media has reported that a number of ministers and senior officials could be sacked while Zelensky tries to organize the government.
A senior ally of the president said earlier that corrupt officials would be jailed “actively”, and took a zero-tolerance approach after the allegations emerged.
History of corruption
Ukraine has a long history of corruption and poor governance, though there have been few examples since last year’s invasion as Kyiv sought Western financial and military support to help fight Russian forces.
Anti-corruption police said Sunday they have arrested a deputy infrastructure minister suspected of accepting a $400,000 bribe to facilitate the import of generators into wartime Ukraine last September.
A parliamentary committee on Monday agreed to tighten procurement regulations after media allegations that the Defense Ministry overpaid suppliers for soldiers’ food. A bill was to be introduced on the partial publication of purchase prices in times of conflict.
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov was quoted by the media as telling the committee that the reports were based on a “technical error” without exchanging money.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it was aware of the media report and was investigating a possible crime of appropriation of funds or abuse of power in connection with purchases worth more than 13 billion hryvnia ($352 million).
David Arakami, leader of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, said it had been made clear since the Russian invasion that officials should “focus on the war, help the victims, reduce bureaucracy and stop shady business”.
“A lot of them got the message. But unfortunately, a lot of them didn’t. We’re certainly going to be doing active training this spring. If the human approach doesn’t work, we’re going to do it under martial law.”
Timofey Milovanov, the former Minister of Economy, Trade and Agriculture, praised the government’s “very proactive and prompt” response to the allegations. He said the deputy minister for infrastructure was quickly sacked and noted the “unprecedented” level of community interest in the issue.
Ukraine, whose economy shrank by a third last year, relies heavily on Western financial aid, and donors such as the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have repeatedly called for more transparency and better governance.
($1 = 36.9250 hryvnia)
(Reporting by Tom Palmforth and Olenna Harmash) Editing by Peter Graf and Stephen Coates
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