A high-level shake-up in the Ukrainian government has cost nearly a dozen senior officials their jobs as the president sought to root out entrenched corruption while conducting the fight against Russia’s invasion.
The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office quit after President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to address high-level corruption allegations, including some related to specific wartime spending, that have embarrassed authorities and could slow the country’s bids to join the European Union and Nato.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko asked to be relieved of his duties, according to an online copy of a decree signed by Mr Zelensky and Mr Tymoshenko’s own social media posts. Neither gave a reason for the resignation.
In all, four deputy ministers and five regional governors were set to leave their posts, the country’s cabinet secretary said.
In a video address on Tuesday, Mr Zelensky said: “Any internal problems that hinder the state are being cleaned up and will be cleaned up.
“It is fair, it is necessary for our defence, and it helps our rapprochement with European institutions.”
The departures thinned the government’s wartime ranks as Mr Zelensky had already lost his interior minister, who oversaw Ukraine’s police and emergency services, and the rest of the ministry’s leadership in a helicopter crash last week.
With western allies channelling billions of pounds to help Kyiv’s fight against Moscow, Mr Zelensky had pledged to weed out corruption which some observers have described as endemic. He came to power in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform.
In his nightly video address on Sunday, the president said Ukraine’s focus on the Russian invasion would not stop his government from tackling alleged corruption, even amid a war.
“I want to be clear: there will be no return to what used to be in the past,” he said.
Mr Tymoshenko was last year under investigation relating to his personal use of luxury cars. He was also among officials linked last September by an investigator working with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine to the embezzlement of humanitarian aid worth more than £5.7 million earmarked for the southern Zaporizhzhia region.
On Sunday, a deputy minister at the infrastructure ministry, Vasyl Lozynsky, was dismissed for being part of a network allegedly embezzling budget funds.
Oleksandr Kubrakov, the infrastructure minister, said Mr Lozynsky was relieved of his duties after Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency detained him while he was receiving a 400,000 dollar (£325,000) bribe for helping to fix contracts related to restoring facilities battered by Russian missile strikes.
Last June, the EU agreed to put Ukraine on a path toward EU membership. To join the bloc, countries must meet a host of economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles.
Ukraine has long aspired to join Nato as well, but the military alliance is not about to offer an invitation because of the country’s contested borders, defence establishment shortcomings and, in part, its corruption issues.