The United States pledged to closely monitor how Ukraine spends billions of dollars in aid on Tuesday, following a damaging corruption scandal that led to a series of resignations in Kyiv.
While Washington said it had no evidence Western funds were being misappropriated, US State Department spokesman Ned Price promised there would be “rigorous oversight” to ensure that American aid was not diverted.
Several senior Ukrainian officials were removed from their posts on Tuesday, following a corruption scandal surrounding illicit payments to deputy ministers and overvalued military contracts.
A total of five regional governors, four deputy ministers and two heads of government agencies left office, alongside the deputy head of the presidential administration and the deputy attorney general.
In his overnight address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the purge was “necessary” to maintain “a strong state”, while Price hailed it as “swift” and “essential”.
Yet the scandal comes at a sensitive time for Kyiv, as it demands ever-increasing support from the West and faces Russian advances in the east.
Corruption could dampen Western enthusiasm for Ukraine’s government, which has a long history of weak governance.
Over the weekend, anti-corruption police arrested the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure on suspicion of receiving a 367,000 euro bribe to buy overpriced generators, an allegation that he denies.
It comes at a time when Ukrainian civilians are suffering prolonged power cuts, amid crippling Russian strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure.
Meanwhile, a Ukrainian newspaper investigation accused the Defense Ministry of signing contracts to provide food to frontline troops at “two to three” times the normal price.
Analysts say the high-profile resignations show that corruption bears not only criminal but also political liability.
“It is a good example of how the institutions and mechanisms for combating corruption and checks and balances established after the [2014 Maidan] The Dignity Revolution is working despite an ongoing all-out war,” Kateryna Ryzhenko of Transparency International Ukraine, an anti-corruption NGO, told Euronews.
“But the final part of these events should be played by the prosecution, the investigative body and the court when these cases are tried to the fullest extent of the law,” she added.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, which is believed to have signed overpriced contracts worth 320 million euros, said the resignations would help “maintain the trust of society and international partners”.
On Sunday, he called the allegations “disinformation”, warning that they undermined “defense interests during a special period”.
In January, the head of Russia’s Chechen Republic called Western aid to Ukraine a “money laundering scheme”.
“I see some are worried about foreign aid to Ukraine. Don’t worry! This is a money laundering scheme. Western and Ukrainian authorities will embezzle these funds, and no more than 15% of total aid will reach the trenches,” Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.
There is no evidence for this claim from Putin’s staunch ally.
Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on the promise of far-reaching reforms to fight corruption and improve the economy.
During his tenure, Ukraine’s president sacked many ministers and officials as he struggled to curb the harmful influence of the country’s powerful.