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Ukraine purges graft-hit officials

Separately on Tuesday, a long-awaited decision on whether allies could send German-made heavy tanks to Ukraine finally reached Berlin, after Poland said it had formally sent its request
Volodymyr Zelensky
Volodymyr Zelensky
File picture

Reuters   |   Kyiv   |   Published 25.01.23, 12:18 AM

Ukraine dismissed the governors of five battlefield provinces and an array of other senior officials on Tuesday in the biggest shake-up of its wartime leadership since Russia’s invasion last year.

Separately on Tuesday, a long-awaited decision on whether allies could send German-made heavy tanks to Ukraine finally reached Berlin, after Poland said it had formally sent its request.


Among more than a dozen senior Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed on Tuesday were the governors of the Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

All five regions have been major battlefields over the past year, giving their governors an unusually high national profile.

A deputy defence minister, a deputy prosecutor, a deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development were among the others who left.

Some, though not all, had been linked with corruption allegations. Ukraine has a history of graft and shaky governance, and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in western aid.

“There are already personnel decisions — some today, some tomorrow — regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight video address.

Zelensky aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted: “The President sees and hears society. And he directly responds to a key public demand — justice for all.”

The purge came two days after a deputy infrastructure minister was arrested and accused of siphoning off $400,000 from contracts to buy generators in one of the first big corruption scandals to become public since the war began 11 months ago.

The defence ministry said deputy defence minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, responsible for supplying troops, had resigned to retain trust after what it called untrue media accusations of corruption. It followed a newspaper report that the ministry overpaid for food for troops, which the ministry denied.

The prosecutor’s office gave no reason for the sacking of deputy prosecutor general Oleksiy Symonenko, who had been under fire in Ukrainian media for taking a holiday in Spain.

Though Zelensky did not name any officials in his address, he announced a new ban on officials taking holidays abroad. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff in Zelensky’s office, announced his own resignation, also citing no reason. He had helped run the President’s 2019 election campaign and more recently had a role in overseeing regional policy.

The changes are a rare shake-up of an otherwise notably stable wartime leadership in Kyiv.

Apart from purging a spy agency in July, Zelensky has mostly stuck with his team, built around fellow political novices the former television actor brought into power when he was elected in a landslide in 2019.

Decision on tanks

Poland’s announcement that it had officially asked for Berlin’s permission to export German-made tanks to Ukraine appears to leave German Chancellor Olaf Scholz little room to continue putting off a decision in what has become the main debate among allies over how best to support Ukraine.

“I hope that this answer from Germany will come quickly, because the Germans are delaying, dodging, acting in a way that is difficult to understand,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.

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