Ukraine’s president says corruption probe exposes wrongdoing by military officials
As the war with Russia enters a critical phase, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has fired all the heads of Ukraine’s regional military recruitment centers.
Zelenskyy announced his impeachment in Kyiv on Friday, expanding his war on corruption since Russia invaded Ukraine 18 months ago.
He said state investigations into centers across Ukraine had exposed abuses by officials.
Zelensky also said that 112 criminal cases have been opened against draft board officials suspected of bribery and corruption.
He used harsh rhetoric that was welcomed by Ukrainians appalled by wartime corruption cases.
“This system must be run by people who know what war is and why cynicism and bribery during war are treason,” he said, adding that the shooters would be replaced by combat veterans and veterans wounded at the front.
Zelenskyy previously fired senior officials on suspicion of corruption. This comes as Ukraine steps up efforts to curb corruption that has long plagued the country’s armed forces, with Kyiv providing billions of dollars in military aid to Western allies.
The long-simmering corruption scandal in Ukraine’s draft system sparked a scandal last June when a media investigation into Odesa’s regional draft commissar, Yevan Borisov, was published.
The investigation revealed millions of dollars worth of real estate and luxury vehicles allegedly owned by Borisov’s family members in Spain. Borisov denied any wrongdoing, saying he had nothing to do with the purchases his family made.
After the report, Ukraine’s State Intelligence Bureau and its security service detained dozens of draft board employees suspected of bribery and corruption.
‘Prove your dignity’
Zelensky said dismissed military recruiters who were not tried should volunteer to fight for Ukraine.
“But I emphasize: the military is not and never will be a substitute for criminal punishment. Officers who confused epaulettes with privileges will certainly face investigation,” he said.
Zelenskyy said top-ranking General Valery Zalushny would be responsible for implementing Friday’s decision and that new candidates for the posts would first be vetted by Ukraine’s internal security service, the SBU.
Despite recent moves against corruption, Ukraine ranks 116th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.
In a June poll commissioned by Transparency International, 77 percent of Ukrainians believe corruption is one of the country’s most serious problems.
Zelenskyy was elected in a landslide in 2019 on promises to reform the government and tackle corruption that plagued the country long before Moscow sent its troops across the border on February 24 last year.