Several senior Ukrainian officials resigned on Tuesday after being forced out over a corruption scandal that has rocked Ukraine, resulting in the biggest government shake-up since Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Monday that he decided to make “personnel decisions” after Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister, Vasyl Lozynskyy, was dismissed and arrested over allegations of embezzlement.
Lozynskyy was arrested after the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine accused him of receiving a $400,000 bribe for facilitating the over-priced purchase of generators that were imported into Ukraine in September.
Officials in Ukraine’s Defense Ministry were accused of being involved in the purchase of military goods, including food supplies, at inflated prices. The allegations resulted in the resignation of Vyacheslav Shapovalov, the deputy defense minister, who reportedly oversaw the purchases.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry insists there was no wrongdoing and any inflated prices were due to a “technical mistake.” The allegations have put Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov under scrutiny, although he remains in his position.
Another Ukrainian official to resign was Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the president’s deputy head of office, who was spotted driving luxury sportscars throughout the war. Ukrainian media also reported that Tymoshenko was living in a mansion that he rented for $6,000 per month, although similar properties in the same area typically went for between $10,000 to $25,000 per month.
Several other high-level officials also resigned on Tuesday, including regional governors. According to BBC, the other top-level officials who were forced out include:
- Deputy Prosecutor General Oleskiy Symonenko
- Deputy Minister for Development of Communities and Territories Ivan Lukerya
- Deputy Minister for Development of Communities and Territories Vyacheslav Negoda
- Deputy Minister for Social Policy Vitaliy Muzychenko
- And the regional governors of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Sumy, and Kherson
Ukraine has always been notorious for its corruption, and Western officials often cited the issue when arguing why the country couldn’t join the EU or NATO. In June 2021, President Biden was asked if Ukraine will join NATO and said, “The fact is they still have to clean up corruption.”
But since Russia invaded Ukraine, the corruption concerns have waned as the US has authorized over $113 billion to spend on the war with very little oversight. Included in that amount are billions in “direct budgetary aid,” which is money that is handed directly to the Ukrainian government.
Zelensky’s actions in response to the corruption scandal were enough to satisfy hawks in Congress who favor pouring more money and weapons into the country. “It’s a defining moment for Ukraine. It’s a defining moment for all of us, Germany, the United States, all of our allies. We expect that President Zelensky will follow through with a promise he made that Ukraine is going to change on the corruption front,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Tuesday.