Ukrainian Corrupt Officials Face Jail Time

Posted 4 days ago

From WWW.POLITICO.EU

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov — one of the most prominent faces of the war against Russia — is now under fire on the home front as investigations into government corruption rocked the country over the weekend.

Kyiv’s officials have been at pains over the course of the war to attempt to show that the nation is pulling together and cleaning up its act on corruption in a bid to chart a course toward the EU, so the revelations of two probes into top-level graft have come as a severe blow.

Both of the inquiries are related to war profiteering, and triggered an immediate pledge of action from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday night. The case involving the defense ministry involved purchases of military rations at inflated prices — a topic that has snowballed into top news in Kyiv. Almost simultaneously, the deputy infrastructure minister was fired in a case linked to an overpriced public purchase of electrical generators. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine said it was investigating both matters.

“This week will be a time for appropriate decisions. I don’t want to announce them now, but it will all be fair. In each situation, we will analyze everything in detail. The issues related to energy and procurement. The relations between the central government and the regions. Everything related to procurement for the military,” Zelenskyy said.

Although Reznikov did not personally sign the defense food and catering contract worth 13 billion hryvnias (€326 million), journalists and watchdogs said that he had ultimate responsibility and had publicly stated his zero tolerance toward corruption. Reznikov called the accusations a smear campaign, aimed at undermining trust in the defense ministry and its reputation among international partners.

While Reznikov is vigorously defending the ministry’s contract, Deputy Minister of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development Vasyl Lozynskiy was fired almost immediately. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) reported the deputy minister was busted while accepting a $400,000 bribe for facilitating an overpriced power-generating equipment purchase.

David Arakhamia, head of Servant of the People faction in the Ukrainian parliament, affiliated to Zelenskyy, promised some of the corrupt officials could face jail terms this spring.

“Since February 24, 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,” Arakhamia said in a Telegram statement. “If it doesn’t work in a civilized 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 defense.”

Yurii Nikolov, an investigative journalist and founder of the Nashi Groshi (Our Money) investigative website, who broke the defense procurement story for Ukrainian news website ZN. UA, wants to see action rather than more promises from politicians.

“Now Ukraine has a unique opportunity to show we are not like Russia, where they launder money on everything. If some guy wants to steal millions of euros from us during the war, when our economy is 60 percent dependent on EU aid, we have to stop him,” Nikolov told POLITICO.

The publicity from Nikolov’s article helped draw attention to the dubious contract before the payments went through, Nikolov claimed.

The NABU said it had opened its inquiry into the military catering deal even before Nikolov published his investigation.

Nikolov has been investigating corruption involving state procurement for more than 10 years. Like many other Ukrainian journalists, he stopped criticizing the Ukrainian government so as not to undermine trust in Ukrainian leaders during the full-scale invasion during the first sixth months of 2022.... (Read more)