Ongoing Anti-Corruption Efforts in Ukraine Raise Doubts
Zelensky Battle Against Corruption A High-Profile Case Uncovered
In recent weeks, Ukraine has seen a series of significant developments in its fight against corruption. These efforts, however, have not completely dispelled skepticism about President Zelensky’s commitment to eradicating this pervasive issue. One particularly sensitive case revolves around oligarch Kolomoiski, who has been taken into custody.
Dismissal of Defence Minister Over Corruption
A headline-making anti-corruption episode involved President Zelensky’s dismissal of Defence Minister Reznikov in early September. Although Reznikov himself was not personally implicated in corruption, his ministry faced various corruption allegations, implicating his deputy and other high-ranking officials who went untouched. One such case involved the Ministry overpaying significantly for eggs meant for food supplies to soldiers, a revelation brought to light by a journalist in February.
Shortly after Reznikov’s dismissal, the Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) apprehended oligarch Ihor Kolomoiski in his Dnipro residence in Russia. Kolomoiski, once one of Ukraine’s wealthiest individuals and closely connected to Zelensky prior to his presidency, now faces a two-month detention on suspicion of illicit fund transfers abroad.
Crackdown on Recruiting Offices
In August, President Zelensky ordered the closure and scrutiny of all recruiting offices across Ukraine. These offices had long been known unofficially for facilitating the exchange of unfitness certificates and travel permits for military personnel, allegedly for bribes as high as $15,000.
Ongoing Fight Against Corruption
The Ukrainian Supreme Court’s President was arrested in May for allegedly accepting a substantial bribe. Earlier in the year, Zelensky dismissed several ministers and deputy ministers in connection with bribery cases, reflecting his ongoing anti-corruption stance.
Kolomoiski’s Complex Past
Kolomoiski’s case is the most significant and internationally connected among the recent anti-corruption efforts. He was a prominent figure in Ukraine, owning major industrial, financial, and media entities, including the TV channel responsible for “Servant of the People,” in which Zelensky starred. Kolomoiski’s involvement in the looting of Privat Bank led to its nationalisation in 2016.
Kolomoiski’s Return to Ukraine
After Zelensky’s election, Kolomoiski returned to Ukraine, raising suspicions of political involvement through his connection with the president. Speculation was tempered by reports that Zelensky had revoked Kolomoiski’s Ukrainian citizenship. However, the circumstances surrounding Kolomoiski’s arrest at his Ukrainian residence remain unclear.
Zelensky is aware that the Kolomoiski case is a significant test of his commitment to combating corruption, which is deeply ingrained in Ukraine. Kolomoiski also faces charges in the United States and London related to financial misconduct. Whether Zelensky ensures a public trial for his former business partner after the pre-trial detention period ends remains uncertain.
Doubts persist, with some questioning the arrest’s circumstances, the relatively small sum cited, and the absence of mention of the alleged embezzlement of billions. Failure to hold Kolomoiski accountable could lead to increased criticism of foreign aid to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Progress in Anti-Corruption
While Ukraine ranks 116th on Transparency International’s 2022 corruption list, the second-lowest in Europe, it has made some improvements compared to the previous year. Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts also contrast with Russia’s authoritarian regime, where anti-corruption activists like Navalny face arbitrary persecution.
According to journalist Yuri Nikolov’s collaboration with the newspaper “Serkalo Nedeli,” which revealed corruption within the Defence Ministry and resulted in Reznikov’s removal from office, the press in Ukraine plays a significant role in exposing corruption.