Zelensky Fires the Heads of All Local Draft Boards After Corruption Scandal

The Ukrainian leader said an investigation into recruitment centers revealed mass corruption.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he was firing dozens of officials responsible for overseeing military recruitment in each region of the country. The leader claimed the officials were engaging in “revolting” abuses of power.

Last week, Zelensky said his administration had conducted a sweeping investigation into the practices at recruitment centers. “The investigation is revealing numerous abuses. And they are frankly revolting.”

On Friday, Zelensky explained that the investigation resulted in 33 officials overseeing conscription being charged with 113 crimes. “During the inspection of the territorial recruitment centers, law enforcement agencies exposed cases of corruption, in particular during the general mobilization, which pose a threat to Ukraine’s national security and undermine confidence in state institutions,” Zelensky said in a video address.

Officials heading the conscription office in Odessa were fired after acquiring over $5 million in unaccounted for funds.

While Kiev did not give a detailed accounting of the crimes committed, Zelensky explained most crimes involved bribing officials to avoid service in the military. “Some [officials] took cash, some took cryptocurrency – that’s the only difference.” Zelensky continued, “The cynicism is the same everywhere. Illicit enrichment, legalization of illegally obtained funds, illegal benefit, illegal transportation of persons liable for military service across the border.”

Zelensky assigned Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhny the responsibility of installing new officials. He called on the Ukrainian intelligence service to vet all candidates and insisted that the new recruitment officials be injured soldiers.

Corruption has been a rampant problem within the Ukrainian government for years. In January, Zelensky fired several senior officials for corruption. In March, The Wall Street Journal documented Ukrainians paying bribes to officials to avoid being drafted.

Young Ukrainian men drafted into the military have received minimal training, and many have died within a few days of reaching the front lines. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that morale was plummeting among Ukrainians. One soldier said if given the chance to remake his choice, he would have decided against joining the armed forces.

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.