Several senior Ukrainian officials have resigned amid allegations of corruption

A number of senior Ukrainian officials announced their resignations on Tuesday after the defense ministry was rocked by accusations of food fraud, in the country’s biggest corruption scandal since the start of the Russian invasion.

Ukraine has a history of endemic corruption, including among the political elite, but efforts to root out graft have been overshadowed by Moscow’s all-out war that began in February.

Kyiv’s Western allies, who have committed billions of dollars in financial and military support, have been pressing for anti-corruption reforms for years, sometimes as a precondition for getting aid.

Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, deputy head of the Presidential Administration Kyrylo Tymoshenko and deputy prosecutor general Oleksiy Simonenko were among the officials who resigned.

The Defense Ministry announced the resignation of Shapovalov, who was responsible for logistical support for the army, in the wake of accusations that he was signing food contracts at inflated prices.

Local media reports last week accused the ministry of signing a deal with prices “two to three times higher” than the current prices of basic foodstuffs.

In a statement, the ministry insisted the accusations were “baseless and unfounded” but said Shapovalov’s departure would “maintain the trust of the community and international partners”.

Tymoshenko, who has worked with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky since his election in 2019 and oversaw regional policy, also announced his resignation on Tuesday.

Posting a photo of himself holding a handwritten letter of resignation, he thanked the president for “the opportunity to do good work every day, every minute.”

Tymoshenko has been embroiled in several scandals during his tenure, including in October last year when he was accused of using a car donated to Ukraine for humanitarian purposes.

The departure of Simonenko, the deputy public prosecutor, follows media reports that he holidayed in Spain this winter, reportedly using a car owned by a Ukrainian businessman.

intractable problem

In his Monday night address, Zelensky announced upcoming “personnel decisions” at various levels and said he was banning officials from traveling abroad for non-work purposes.

“If they want to rest now, they will rest outside the civil service,” Zelensky said.

Transparency International ranked Ukraine 122 out of 180 in its 2021 corruption ranking.

The changes come after Ukraine’s deputy minister for development of communities, territories and infrastructure was sacked over the weekend after he was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement.

Vasyl Lozinsky has been accused of taking a bribe to “facilitate” the purchase of generators at inflated prices as Ukraine faces electricity shortages following Russian strikes on the power grid.

The European Union has highlighted anti-corruption measures as one of the key reforms Ukraine needs to gain candidate status for the bloc.

According to the Center for Economic Strategy, a Ukrainian think tank, the total amount of Western military and financial support for Kiev could reach $100 billion this year, including more than $40 billion for its armed forces.

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