Zelenskiy promises to swiftly confront Ukraine corruption

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a joint news briefing with Poland's president Andrzej Duda, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine on 23 August, 2022.Reuters

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that corruption, the country’s chronic problem cast into the background by the war against Russia, would not be tolerated and promised forthcoming key decisions on uprooting it this week.

Zelenskiy’s pledge came amidst allegations of senior-level corruption, including a report of dubious practices in military procurement despite officials promoting national unity to confront the invasion.

“I want this to be clear: there will be no return to what used to be in the past, to the way various people close to state institutions or those who spent their entire lives chasing a chair used to live,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

Ukraine has had a long history of rampant corruption and shaky governance, with Transparency International ranking the country’s corruption at 122 of 180 countries, not much better than Russia in 2021.

The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of its key requirements for Ukraine’s membership after granting Kyiv the candidate status last year.

“This week will be the time for appropriate decisions,” Zelenskiy said. “The decisions have already been prepared. I do not want to make them public at this time, but it will all be fair.”

Elected by a landslide in 2019 on pledges to change the way the ex-Soviet state was governed, Zelenskiy said that his government had accepted the resignation of a deputy minister after an investigation into allegations he accepted a bribe.

He did not identify the official, but news reports have said an acting deputy minister of regional development, Vasyl Lozinskiy, was detained on allegations of accepting a bribe.

The renewed focus on corruption involved also Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov after a newspaper reported that the military had allegedly secured food at highly inflated prices.

Reznikov’s ministry described the allegations as “false” and a parliamentary committee had been asked to investigate.