No less than 12 senior Ukrainian officials have either resigned or been sacked, as President Volodymyr Zelensky kick-started a rejig of personnel across his administration in an apparent anti-corruption drive.
A top adviser, four deputy ministers and five regional governors left their posts on Tuesday, according to the BBC.
Their departures come as Ukraine launches a broad anti-corruption drive in the wake of authorities observing recent instances of bribery claims, reports of officials buying food at inflated prices and one figure accused of living a lavish lifestyle.
Senior aide Mykhailo Podolyak was quoted as saying that Mr. Zelensky was responding to a “key public demand” that justice should apply to everyone.
The President has already banned state officials from leaving the country unless on authorised business.
The first to resign on Tuesday was Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the President’s Deputy Head of Office, who oversaw regional policy and had earlier worked on Zelensky’s election campaign.
After Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February, he became a frequent spokesperson for the government.
He reportedly was implicated in scandals over his use of expensive cars – though denies any wrongdoing.
In a Telegram post, he thanked Zelensky for “the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute”.
Deputy Defence Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov also resigned, following reports he oversaw the purchase of military food supplies at inflated prices from a relatively unknown firm. The department called this a “technical mistake” and claimed no money had changed hands.
The Defence Minister himself – Oleksii Reznikov – has been under scrutiny for the same reason.
A host of other top officials were dismissed on Tuesday, including Deputy Prosecutor General Oleskiy Symonenko, Deputy Minister for Development of Communities and Territories Ivan Lukeryu, Deputy Minister for Development of Communities and Territories Vyacheslav Negoda, and Deputy Minister for Social Policy Vitaliy Muzychenk
Others are the regional governors of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Sumy and Kherson.
Ukraine reportedly has a history of corruption and in 2021 Transparency International had ranked the country at 122 out of 180 countries in its ranking of corrupt states.
A crackdown is one of the key demands of the European Union (EU), if the country is to advance its application to join the bloc.
In an address on Sunday, the Ukranian President promised there would be “no return to what used to be in the past, to the way various people close to state institutions” used to live.
His comments followed the arrest of Ukraine’s Deputy Infrastructure Minister Vasyl Lozinskyi on Saturday on suspicion of accepting a bribe worth over $350,000 (£285,000) over the supply of electricity generators.
He has denied the charges.
Head of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party David Arakhamia has pledged that corrupt officials could face jail time.
“Officials at all levels have been constantly warned through official and unofficial channels: focus on the war, help the victims, reduce bureaucracy and stop doing dubious business. Many of them have actually listened, but some, unfortunately, did not,” he said in a Telegram statement.
He added: “If it doesn’t work in a civilised way, it will be done according to the laws of wartime. This applies both to recent purchases of generators and to fresh scandals in the Ministry of Defence.”
While there have been anti-corruption reforms in recent years, the stakes are high for Kyiv – which is receiving billions of dollars worth of financial aid from Western allies.
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