Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has fired top members of his government following allegations of massive corruption on how funds met for the war are spent. It was the first time the 45-year-old was overhauling his cabinet since the war started in February last year.
During his nightly address on Monday, President Zelensky said: “There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – regarding officials of various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in the law enforcement system.”
He added that government officials can no longer travel to foreign countries unless they are doing so on official visits.
Since President Zelenskyy made the above statement, top officials of the government had either resigned, dismissed, or reshuffled. Many have linked Zelensky’s decision to the arrest of Vasyl Lozynskyy, the acting minister of regional development. He was detained on Sunday after he was accused of receiving $400,000 in “unlawful benefits” for facilitating contracts.
Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau is investigating reports into allegations that the country’s ministry of defence buys military provisions and food for the troops at inflated prices.
Lozynskyy’s lawyer denied the claims, saying his client was dismissed from his post before being notified of the accusations. He added that the Anti-Corruption Bureau was “deliberately using manipulative tactics to inform the public to artificially create a representation of Lozynsky’s guilt and form a negative image of him.”
“No funds, let alone in the amounts indicated by the [National Anti-Corruption Bureau], were found and seized from Mr Lozynsky,” he said in a statement on Monday.
President Zelensky, in the coming days, could further reshuffle his government as he tries to gain the confidence of allies, especially the European Union, which Ukraine is trying to become a member of.
Officials that have left the government
So far, at least nine officials of the Ukrainian government have been either replaced or resigned in the last two days. The following are some officials that have been swept out since the war started.
Deputy head of Zelenskyys office
One of the numerous deputy heads of the President’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, was one of the top officials accused of financial mismanagement and corruption. He was criticised for using a Chevrolet donated for humanitarian purposes for personal use. He did not deny the use of the vehicle but insisted that he had done nothing wrong by using it.
Last month, Tymoshenko was confirmed to be living in a 1,200-square-meter mansion. In his defence, he said he was doing so for security reasons. On Tuesday, he was among the few officials that submitted letters of resignation.
Deputy Minister of Defense
Among those that resigned from their positions was Vyacheslav Shapovalov, a deputy defence minister of Ukraine. He was the official in charge of supplying food and clothing to the men on the frontline. Last week, he was accused of buying the supplies at prices above market rates.
“Despite the fact that the accusations are unfounded and baseless, Viacheslav Shapovalov’s resignation request follows in the tradition of European and democratic politics, a demonstration that the interests of defence are higher than any cabinet position,” Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s minister of defence, wrote, while accepting the resignation.
One deputy prosecutor General
A deputy prosecutor general, Olecksiy Symonenko, was among those that will be losing their jobs in the latest shake-up. He came under public criticism after he went on holiday with his family in Spain.
Unlike other officials that were accused of financial mismanagement, Symonenko’s case was different. Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are prohibited from travelling abroad during wartime, except they are permitted by the government.
On Monday, president Zelensky announced that government officials cannot travel outside the country, except on official duties. Many have insinuated that Symonenko’s action was behind the decision.
Governors of five regions
At least five governors have either resigned or shown the exit door. They are Valentyn Reznichenko of the Dnipropetrovsk region, Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych of the Kherson region, and Oleksiy Yanushevych of the Kyiv region.
The other two governors are Oleksandr Starukh of the Souther Zaporizhzhia region and Dmytro Zhyvytskyi of the Sumy region.
Three deputy ministers
On Tuesday, Ivan Lukeria and Vyacheslav Nehoda, deputy ministers of regional development, were dismissed. Also dismissed was Vitaliy Muzychenko, a deputy minister for social policy. He had been in the position since 2007.
“No blind eyes” to corruption
Reacting to Zelenskyy’s cabinet shake-up, his adviser Mykhailo Pololyak said the changes indicated the president’s commitment to fighting corruption in the country. He said the decisions were based on the demands of the public, to whom the president is accountable.
“Zelenskyy’s personnel decisions testify to the key priorities of the state… No “blind eyes”. During the war, everyone should understand their responsibility. The President sees and hears society. And he directly responds to a key public demand – justice for all,” Pololyak wrote on Twitter.
Over the years, corruption has been deeply rooted in various Ukrainian governments. Zelensky won the presidential election based on his campaign to run a transparent government. However, there have been several cases of corruption within his government. Hence his recent actions have been widely accepted by both Ukrainians and the country’s allies.