NewsWhere is the money? Military corruption is a headache for Ukraine

    Where is the money? Military corruption is a headache for Ukraine

    KIEV, Ukraine – The dismissal of Ukraine’s Defense Minister following a spate of reports about bribery and financial mismanagement in his department underscores a fundamental challenge to the President’s wartime leadership Volodymyr Zelensky:

    end widespread corruption in Ukraine for years.

    Official corruption was a taboo subject during the first year of the war, as Ukrainians rallied around their government in a fight for national survival.

    But Zelensky’s announcement on Sunday night that he was replacing the defense minister, Oleksii Reznikovraised the issue to the highest level of Ukrainian politics.

    It comes at a crucial moment in the war, when Ukraine is carrying out a counteroffensive in the south and east of the country that relies heavily on military aid from Western allies.

    Ukrainian soldiers transport supplies for their colleagues at a front-line position near Ivanivske, eastern Ukraine, on April 26, 2023. (Mauricio Lima/The New York Times)

    Since the start of the war, these allies have pressured Zelensky’s government to ensure that Ukrainian officials did not divert some of the billions of dollars of aid flowing into Kiev.

    Last week, the United States national security advisor, Jake Sullivanmet with three senior Ukrainian officials to discuss efforts to root out wartime corruption.

    This comes as some US lawmakers have used corruption as an argument to limit aid military to Ukraine.

    Zelensky has responded to pressure from allies and domestic criticism with a series of anti-corruption initiativesnot all of them well received by experts in government transparency.

    The most controversial has been the proposal to ply the martial law to punish corruption treason.

    Reznikov, who has held various positions under Zelensky, submitted his resignation on Monday morning.

    He has not been personally implicated in accusations of mismanaged military contracts.

    The question is: “Where is the money“said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Center, a group dedicated to rooting out public corruption that is now focused on war profiteering.

    “Corruption can kill,” Kaleniuk said.

    “Depending on how effective we are at guarding public funds, the soldier will have a weon or he will not have one.”

    At one point this year, some 980 million dollars in arms contracts had missed their delivery deadlines, according to government figures, and some advance payments for weons had dispeared into arms dealers’ offshore accounts, according to reports presented to parliament.

    Although no specific details have emerged, the irregularities suggest that Ministry officials in charge of procurement did not investigate suppliers or allowed that the arms sellers would take the money without handing over the weons.

    Ukrainian media have noted excessive paymentss for basic supplies for the army, such as food and winter coats.

    So far, public revelations of mismanagement have not directly affected foreign weons transferred to the Ukrainian military, nor Western aid money, but they are nonetheless drilling the feeling of unconditional support for the government that Ukrainians had shown during the first year of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

    Two Defense Ministry officials – a vice minister and the head of procurement – were detained during the winter over reports of overpriced eggs being purchased for the military.

    Last month, Zelensky fired the heads of military recruiting offices following accusations that some of them had accepted bribes from people who wanted avoid compulsory military service.

    His proposal to treat corruption as treason sparked a wave of criticism on the grounds that it could lead to an abuse of martial law powers.

    Oleksii Goncharenko, a lawmaker from the opposition European Solidarity party, said of Zelenskyy’s record:

    Government officials acknowledge that some military contracts failed to produce weons or ammunition, and that some of the money has dispeared.

    But they say most of the problems arose in the chaotic first months of the invasion last year and have since been fixed.

    Reznikov stated last week that he hoped the ministry would return advance payments to suppliers who had dispeared.

    As Defense Minister, Reznikov considered his main job to be gathering allies to supply weons.

    He was not directly responsible for the day-to-day running of the war and his dismissal is not considered related to the slowness of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

    Military spending now accounts for almost half of Ukraine’s national budget, and reports of procurement scandals point to a shift in the sources of public corruption.

    Before the full-scale invasion, the main source of embezzlement had been poorly managed state companiesof which there were more than 3,000 on the government’s balance sheet.

    Money was siphoned off through countless schemes by wealthy insiders, while the national budget, propped up by foreign aid, absorbed the losses.

    Anti-corruption groups say the huge influx of funds to support the war has led them to focus their attention on military spending.

    Ukrainian investigative journalists have highlighted overpayment for basic army supplies, such as eggs at 17 hryvnia, or 47 cents, each, well above prevailing prices, according to a report by Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, a Ukrainian newsper.

    The canned peas were purchased from Turkey at a higher price than the same cans in Ukrainian supermarkets, according to the newsper, even though the military was expected to buy at a lower price than the retail price.

    The ministry also purchased thousands of coats that turned out to be insufficiently insulatings for the harsh Ukrainian winters.

    Especially worrying is the proposal to punish corruption as treason because it could allow the national intelligence agency, the SBU, which is under the direct control of the president, to investigate official corruption.

    Last week’s meeting with Sullivan included the heads of a specialized investigative agency, a prosecutor’s office and a court that were created after Ukraine’s Western political pivot in 2014, with help from the United States and international lenders such as the International Monetary Fundl.

    These are the Ukrainian bodies that could lose power with Zelensky’s betrayal proposal.

    Western governments are wary of the possible weakening of the agencies, Radina said, adding that if the proposal goes ahead, “they will most likely oppose it.”

    But overall, Radina, a member of Zelensky’s ruling party, Servant of the Peopledefended the government’s efforts to prevent wartime corruption.

    Other cases

    The arrest this past weekend of Ihor Kolomoiskyone of Ukraine’s richest men, was seen as a sign of the campaign to curb the political influence of oligarchs.

    Suspected of fraud and money laundering, Kolomoisky supported Zelensky’s election campaign in 2019, but since the war began, the president pears to have severed all ties with him.

    In another crackdown this year, investigators carried out one of their highest-profile bribery trials, against the head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court, who was dismissed and detained in May.

    Furthermore, a vice minister of economy, accused of embezzlement of humanitarian aid funds.

    According to Andrii Borovyk, director of International Transparency In Ukraine, the fact that high-level corruption cases are coming to light is positive, rather than an indication of a nation bogged down by insider trading.

    It shows that the country can fight war and corruption at the same time.

    “Scandals are good,” he said.

    “War,” Borovyk added, “cannot be an excuse to stop fighting corruption.”

    c.2023 The New York Times Company

    Source: Clarin

    This post is posted by Awutar staff members. Awutar is a global multimedia website. Our Email: [email protected]


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