On Wednesday, many prominent members of the Ukrainian government, including four deputy ministers, resigned due to allegations of corruption made by the local press. On Sunday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced his intention to proceed with a reorganization of high-level officials, including in the ministerial sphere, to respond to growing suspicions of corruption.
The first resignation was that of Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s secretariat, implicated in a scandal relating to the private use of luxury cars made available by the government to carry out public functions. Tymoshenko was a very close figure to Zelensky, he had been important in his electoral campaign and after the start of the war he had often played the role of spokesman.
His resignation was followed by that of Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, accused of overpaying for food supplies to the army. Shapovalov resigned denying the allegations of corruption, arguing that the excessive payment was the result of a mistake and justifying the decision to step aside by virtue of the “greater good” of the Ministry of Defence. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov himself may have to answer for the scandal.
A few hours later, Deputy Prosecutor General Oleskiy Symonenko was also removed from his post, even though his office specified that the request had come “from Symonenko himself”. The Ukrainian press organs then reported the news of the resignations of the regional governors of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Sumy and Kherson, of the deputy ministers for Development Ivan Lukeryu and Vyacheslav Negoda and of the deputy minister for Social Policies Vyacheslav Negoda.
According to many Ukrainian media, new resignations could arrive in the next few hours, while Zelensky has announced other decisions already today, or in the next few days: they could include the removal of officials and ministers from their posts.
In addition to the journalistic investigations, this anti-corruption operation had been initiated by the arrest made on Saturday of the Deputy Minister for Infrastructures Vasyl Lozinsky, on charges of having received a bribe of over 300,000 euros in September for a supply of generators. Lozinskyi has denied the allegations.
Ukraine has a long history of corruption: in the 2021 rankings of Transparency International, an international non-governmental organization that deals with corruption, it ranks number 122 out of 180 states, just ahead of Gabon and Mexico, but with the worst scores among the European states. Zelensky had focused part of his presidential campaign on the fight against corruption and in Sunday’s speech he said: “I promise we will not go back to the habits of the past”. At stake is not only his political credibility, but also the international credibility of the country, which after the invasion suffered by Russia is obtaining grants and aid, in various forms, from many foreign countries. David Arakhamia, head of the Servant of the People Party, the same as the president, has instead hypothesized that “martial law” could be used to punish any corrupt people.