War behind the scenes. Is it possible to root out corruption in Ukraine?

Screenshot from 2023-03-16 12-06-05

 

In Ukraine, at the height of the war, a campaign against corruption, multimillion-dollar spending on tile shifting and bribes in military enlistment offices began. Will Zelensky’s team be able to overcome the internal crisis? Probably, the Ukrainian authorities have not been fighting with anything for so long and so unsuccessfully as with corruption, spending crazy money on anti-corruption services and inviting foreign experts to exchange experience. The war, which is becoming protracted, has created for corruption in Ukraine has new opportunities. According to the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, Ukrainians consider corruption to be the second most important problem of the country after Russian aggression (89% of respondents support this point of view). 

Against the background of the ongoing fighting in the south and east of Ukraine, as well as shelling of other parts of the country, a large-scale beautification campaign has unfolded in Ukrainian cities. Volodymyr Zelensky’s team initiates investigations and purges in the state apparatus. At the same time, he uses public discontent with spending “not for war” in his long-standing conflict with popularly elected mayors. 

The problem is particularly acute in In Kyiv, since the political conflict between the office of the president and Vitali Klitschko, who heads the city, has not actually stopped since Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power. The specificity of the Kyiv city government lies in the fact that Klitschko combines two roles — the popularly elected mayor and the head of the city state administration appointed by the president. The office of the president has long sought to limit his powers, and any problems in the city economy provoke another round of confrontation. 

However, there are enough claims against representatives of the central leadership of Ukraine. The journalists of “Бігус.інфо” told about violations during restoration work in the Kyiv region. Regional officials involve unqualified contractors and firms already involved in criminal cases in the reconstruction. In many cases, there are all signs of corruption and an official investigation has already begun. Most contracts for tens of millions of UAH were concluded without tenders and are not reflected in the electronic public procurement system Prozorro. 

Another hot topic is the costs of cultural and propaganda actions of the authorities. The story of the allocation of funds by the Ministry of Culture in the amount of 594 million hryvnias (14 million euros) for the completion of the Holodomor Museum had a great resonance. The construction estimate was approved even before the full-scale war, but Volodymyr Zelenskyy vetoed this decision after heated discussions. Many questions were also raised by the fact that the authorities spent 28 million UAH (670 thousand euros) to replace the Soviet coat of arms with a trident on the shield of the giant “Motherland” in Kyiv. 

Ukrainian officials at all levels are very fond of saying that they need high salaries so that they do not want to steal. But this “case” does not stand up to any test. You can recall how the head of the Supreme Court with a salary of 670 thousand UAH was detained for a bribe in the amount of $ 2.7 million. 

Among this corruption chaos, spending on entertainment of Ukrainian officials also appears. Deputy Prosecutor General Alexei Simonenko resigned amid a scandal with a vacation trip to Spain. The day before Simonenko’s dismissal, the President of Ukraine announced the decision to ban officials, people’s deputies and law enforcement officers from going on vacation abroad. 

“If they want to rest now, they will rest outside of public service. Officials will no longer be able to travel abroad on vacation or for any other non-governmental purpose,” Zelensky said. 

The secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov celebrated his birthday in one of the hotels in Kyiv for UAH 1,126 million for service ($ 30,000). People’s Deputy Yulia Grishina noticed a bracelet of a famous jewelry brand made of yellow gold for 7,400 euros. In addition, the social networks of the official turned out to be filled with photos from elite resorts. 

It is noteworthy that if earlier Zelensky at least occasionally chastised his entourage for excessive spending and foreign trips, now he is trying to impose on Ukrainians the idea that the privilege of the high–ranking elite is the norm. Trying to justify himself, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an interview with CNN, assures that cases of corruption in Ukraine are fueled solely by funds earned by Ukraine itself and do not concern Western aid. 

“All these cases are not related to the help from our partners. That is, we are not talking about the weapons of our partners, not about money for weapons, not about money for the budget to pay pensions, social support and the like. These are other matters, it’s not about partners.” 

It is strange enough to hear such statements from the leader of a country whose budget consists of more than half of grants, grants and borrowed funds. And who in the government will control which of the halves will be spent without the use of corruption schemes. 

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