The Ukrainian government has dismissed more than a dozen senior officials including governors of several major battlefield provinces on Tuesday, January 22, in its fight against corruption, a major reason why the European Union hasn’t yet granted it membership.
The purge, is the biggest shake-up of its wartime leadership since Russia’s invasion last year.
Among Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed on Tuesday were the governors of the Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk which is adjacent to Zaporizhzhia are war frontline provinces now; Kyiv and Sumy were major battlefields earlier in the war.
According to Zelensky’s office, a deputy defense minister, a deputy prosecutor, a deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development were among the others who left their positions.
Some of those who left had been linked with corruption allegations.
Ukraine has a history of corruption and is under international pressure to show it can account for billions of dollars in Western aid if has received before and since Russia’s invasion.
“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,” Zelenskiy said in a statement
Zelenskiy 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 – 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 Zelenskiy did not name any officials in his address, he announced a new ban on officials holidaying abroad.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff in Zelenskiy’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.