The United States on Tuesday pledged to strictly monitor how Ukraine spends billions of dollars in aid.
While Washington said it had no evidence of misuse of Western funds, US State Department spokesman Ned Price promised there would be “rigorous monitoring” to ensure US aid was not diverted.
Several senior Ukrainian officials were dismissed on Tuesday in the wake of a corruption scandal involving improper payments to deputy ministers and overpayments for military contracts.
A total of five regional governors, four deputy ministers and two government agency heads left their posts, along with the deputy head of the presidential administration and the deputy attorney general.
In his nightly speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was “necessary” to maintain “a strong position”, while Price hailed it as “swift” and “essential”.
Yet the scandal comes at a critical time for Kiev, as it seeks ever-increasing support from the West and faces Russian advances in the east.
The scandal could dampen Western enthusiasm for the Ukrainian government, a shaky regime with a long history.
Over the weekend, anti-corruption police arrested the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of accepting a 367,000 euro bribe to buy overpriced generators, a charge he denies.
It comes as the Ukrainian public endures prolonged power outages amid Russian strikes that are crippling the country’s energy infrastructure.
Meanwhile, a Ukrainian newspaper investigation accused the Defense Ministry of signing contracts to supply food to frontline troops at “two to three” times the usual price.
According to analysts, the high-level resignations show that corruption is not only a criminal but also a political responsibility.
“It’s a good example of how institutions and anti-corruption and checks and balances have been established [2014 Maidan] A revolution of dignity is working even though there is a full-scale war going on,” Kateryna Rysenko of the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International Ukraine told Euronews.
“But the final part of these cases is that these cases should be adjudicated to the full extent of the law by the prosecution, the investigative body and the courts,” he added.
Ukraine’s defense ministry, which reportedly signed high-priced contracts worth €320 million, said the resignations would help “protect the trust of society and international partners”.
On Sunday, it dismissed the allegations as “false information”, warning that they could harm the “interests of security in a special period”.
In January, the leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic blasted Western aid to Ukraine as a “money laundering scheme.”
“I see that some people are worried about foreign aid to Ukraine. Don’t worry! This is a working money laundering scheme. Western and Ukrainian authorities will embezzle these funds, and more than 15% of the total aid will not reach the trenches,” Ramzan Kadyrov wrote in Telegram.
There is no evidence from a staunch Putin ally for this claim.
Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on a promise of wide-ranging reforms to fight corruption and improve the economy.
During his tenure as Ukrainian president, he sacked numerous ministers and officials as he fought the corrupting influence of powerful figures in the country.