The Ukrainian government on Tuesday announced the formal dismissal of six of its members and accepted the resignation of five other regional governors in the biggest reshuffle of the administration since the Russian invasion of the country began. The dismissals open a "week of decisions" promised by President Volodymir Zelensky in reaction to several allegations of corruption against government representatives and as he seeks to demonstrate that such activities will not be tolerated when the country needs internal unity and international help to end the war.
Two deputy infrastructure ministers resigned after another deputy minister, Vasyl Lozynkyi, was arrested on Saturday by agents of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau on charges that he received $400,000 in exchange for helping to win a large public contract for the supply of power generators. Lozynskyi was dismissed on Sunday, but his former colleagues, Ivan Lukeria and Vyacheslav Negoda, did not mention any link to the case in their resignation letters.
Another high-profile resignation occurred at the Defence Ministry, where Vyacheslav Shapovalov, the deputy minister responsible for procurement, asked to leave after allegations emerged about high prices paid by the ministry for soldiers' food. Shapovalov dismissed the allegations as "unfounded" but announced his decision in order to help preserve the confidence of international partners in the country and to "ensure an objective investigation".
The Ukrainian media ZN published a report accusing the ministry of overpaying suppliers after analysing the contract, signed in December. The publication of the report provoked mixed reactions. While many expressed shock at a possible case of corruption in the midst of war, others questioned the author's conclusions, pointing out that he did not include the ministry's reaction and that he chose a particularly sensitive moment, when the country is awaiting important decisions on upcoming military aid.
The minister, Olexiy Reznikov, called the publication a "fabricated information attack on a fictitious pretext" and pointed out in a detailed message that it contained numerous errors and inaccuracies. The allegations are being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
These scandals coincide with other cases of questionable behaviour by politicians and state officials. Oleksiy Symonenko, Ukraine's deputy prosecutor general, resigned after it emerged that he spent a ten-day New Year's holiday in Spain, where he allegedly travelled in a car belonging to a wealthy businessman, Grygoriy Kozlovskyi.
On Monday, Zelenskyi signed the decision of the National Security and Defence Council prohibiting civil servants from leaving the country for personal reasons during the time martial law is in force.
The deputy chairman of Zelenski's parliamentary group, People's Servant, Pavlo Khalimon, has been removed from office after a newspaper investigation revealed that he bought a luxury home in Kiev in June. The Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office asked the Prosecutor General's Office to open an investigation into the origin of Khalimon's income.
The deputy head of the Presidential Office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko also resigned on Tuesday without giving reasons. He was in charge of coordinating the work of the regional military administrations. Five heads of these, including the front in Kherson, Dnipro and Zaporiyia, were also dismissed on Tuesday. According to Ukrainska Pravda, another of those dismissed, the former head of the Kiev regional administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, is expected to be appointed as Tymoshenko's successor.
Zelenski, who was elected in 2019 on a platform formed with the aim of ending the war and cleaning up the country's political system, considered inefficient and corrupt, assured in his speech last Sunday that all cases would be thoroughly investigated and that there would be "no going back" on unjust practices in the power structures. He thanked journalists and members of law enforcement institutions and said that justice is a prerequisite for unity, which is especially needed in the midst of war, and announced drastic changes among senior officials.
Tymofiy Milovanov, former Minister of Economy and head of the Kyiv School of Economics, said he believes the recent events underline the cultural change underway in Ukraine as "corruption is episodic while the fight against it is systemic". "I hope these are signs of a good system change," he wrote on Twitter.