Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government last week launched an anti-corruption drive as a scandal over wildly inflated prices for army food implicating Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov went public, attempting to avoid an old enemy: corruption, reports The New York Times.
Some U.S. officials have grown concerned about the risk of embezzlement and theft of billions of dollars in aid and requested more transparency on the billions of dollars already given to Kyiv.
The shake-up "sends a very strong signal to others who would try to rip off this war effort and is important for the future of Ukraine," Victoria Nuland, the under secretary of state for political affairs, testified on Thursday during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Ukraine.
"We have been very clear that we need to see, as they prosecute this war, the anti-corruption steps, including good corporate governance and judicial measures, move forward," she added.
Zelenskyy's administration dismissed six deputy ministers and five regional administrators for undisclosed reasons, although Zelenskyy in a video address late Sunday announcing the shake-up said: "We will never return to how things were before, to the lifestyles that bureaucrats had gotten used to, to the old way of chasing power."
At least three of the officials discharged were implicated in various scandals revealed by the press.
A report in a local newspaper accused Shapovalov of using ministry funds to purchase food and tactical winter clothing at above-market rates. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov disputes the claim but said Shapovalov's resignation request "follows in the tradition of European and democratic politics, a demonstration that the interests of defense are higher than any cabinet position."
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the president's deputy head of office who oversaw regional policy and had earlier worked on Zelenskyy's election campaign, also resigned after Ukrainian investigative journalists accused him of using several expensive sports cars throughout the war.
The stakes are high for Kyiv as it continues to receive aid from the U.S. and other countries to defend itself against Russia's full-scale invasion.
Ukraine has a history of systemic corruption and Zelenskyy vowed to make changes when he was elected in 2019.
But several lawmakers applauded Zelenskyy's move and stood behind him.
"It demonstrates what President Zelenskyy has told us: that there will be zero tolerance for fraud or waste," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday, shortly after returning from a visit to Kyiv.
"All of the scrutiny and oversight so far has disclosed no fraud or waste, no misappropriation of any of the military or humanitarian assistance that have been provided so far," Blumenthal added.
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