Ukraine’s leader said an investigation into corruption uncovered abuses by military officials.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has sacked all the heads of regional conscription centers in the Ukrainian military in a sweeping anti-graft move as the war with Russia enters a critical phase.
Zelensky announced their dismissals in Kiev on Friday, broadening his fight against corruption since Russia invaded Ukraine 18 months ago.
He said a state investigation into centers across Ukraine had uncovered abuses by officials ranging from illegal enrichment to ferrying men eligible for conscription across borders despite a wartime ban on leaving the country.
Zelensky also said that 112 criminal cases have been opened against conscription board officials suspected of taking bribes and engaging in corrupt practices.
He used tough rhetoric likely to be well received by Ukrainians appalled by cases of wartime corruption.
“This system should be run by people who know exactly what war is and why cynicism and bribery during war is treason,” he said, adding that those who were shot would be replaced by veterans and wounded soldiers at the front.
Zelensky has previously fired senior officials suspected of corruption. That sent a signal to Western allies who have provided Kiev with tens of billions of dollars in military aid that Ukraine is serious about clamping down on corruption, which has long plagued the country’s armed forces.
A long-running corruption case in Ukraine’s draft system burst into the open last June when a media investigation into Odessa Regional Project Commissioner Yevin Borisov was published, sparking a scandal.
The investigation reported multimillion-dollar real estate and luxury cars allegedly owned by members of the Borisov family in Spain. Borisov denied any wrongdoing, saying he had nothing to do with what his family bought.
After this report, the Ukrainian State Investigative Bureau and its Security Service detained dozens of conscription board employees suspected of bribery and corruption.
Prove their dignity
Zelensky said any expelled military conscription officer who was not investigated should go to the front to fight for Ukraine “if they want to keep their shoulders and prove their dignity”.
But let me stress: The military is not, and never will be, a substitute for criminal punishment. Officials who mixed epaulettes with concessions will certainly face trial.”
Zelensky said senior general Valeriy Zaluzhny will be responsible for implementing Friday’s decision and new candidates for posts will be screened first by Ukraine’s Internal Security Service.
Despite recent moves against corruption, Ukraine still ranks 116th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.
A June poll by Transparency showed that 77 percent of Ukrainians believe corruption is among the country’s most serious problems.
Zelensky was elected overwhelmingly in 2019 on promises to reform the government and tackle corruption, which had plagued the country long before Moscow sent its troops across the border on February 24 last year.
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