Zelensky’s Sacking of Senior Officials Raises Corruption Concerns

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, the West cited Ukrainian corruption as why Kyiv couldn't join the EU or NATO

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Western officials always cited corruption in Ukraine as the reason why Kyiv couldn’t join NATO or the EU. After the invasion, those concerns appeared to fall by the wayside as the US and its allies shipped billions of dollars worth of weapons and economic aid into Ukraine.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent firing of two senior officials has brought the issue back up. Zelensky sacked his top prosecutor and the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) over allegations that many people in their departments were collaborating with Russia.

A Western official close to the Ukrainian government told Politico that Zelensky’s move appears to move away from the EU’s request for Ukraine to crack down on corruption and allow its law enforcement agencies to be more independent. Many anti-corruption activists believe the firings were an example of Zelensky using his wartime powers to consolidate more control.

Just a few months before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the US was still calling out the government of Ukraine for not appointing a corruption prosecutor. “The EU and the US are greatly disappointed by unexplained and unjustifiable delays in the selection of the Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Office, a crucial body in the fight against high-level corruption,” the US Embassy in Kyiv said on October 6, according to The Associated Press.

In June 2021, President Biden was asked if Ukraine will join NATO and said, “The fact is they still have to clean up corruption.” While Biden has expressed concern about Ukraine’s corruption, his family has benefited from it. After the US-backed ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, then-Vice President Biden’s son Hunter landed a high-paying job on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company.

The State Department dismissed concerns about Zelensky’s latest firings. “In all of our relationships, and including in this relationship, we invest not in personalities; we invest in institutions, and, of course, President Zelenskyy has spoken to his rationale for making these personnel shifts,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday.

Earlier in the war, Zelensky banned 11 political parties, including the country’s leading opposition party, Opposition Platform — For Life. But the move received little criticism from the West.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.