Zelensky Cleans House in Ukraine’s Corruption-Plagued Defense Ministry

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On the eve of a travel to the United States, Ukraine’s president is anxious to show that the billions of dollars Washington is spending to assistance his state is not being squandered.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine successful  Kyiv.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine successful Kyiv past month. Ukraine dismissed each six of its lawman defence ministers arsenic Mr. Zelensky headed to the United States, wherever helium is scheduled to code the United Nations connected Tuesday.Credit...Sergei Chuzavkov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Matthew Mpoke BiggAndrew E. Kramer

Sept. 18, 2023Updated 4:07 p.m. ET

Two weeks aft replacing its defence minister, Ukraine dismissed each six of its lawman ministers connected Monday, deepening the housecleaning astatine a ministry that had drawn disapproval for corruption successful procurement arsenic the subject fund ballooned during the war.

The shake-up successful President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wartime enactment squad came arsenic helium headed to the United States, keen to show to American officials and different Western leaders that his authorities is not squandering — connected either graft oregon mismanagement — the tens of billions of dollars successful assistance they person sent to Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly successful idiosyncratic connected Tuesday successful New York, and aboriginal successful the week to conscionable with President Biden and members of Congress successful Washington successful his ongoing efforts to enactment up enactment for subject aid. He is expected to reason that defending Europe’s borders from an expansionist Russia successful Ukraine serves Western interests successful preventing a wider warfare and the destabilization of the European Union.

In Ukraine’s combat to instrumentality backmost territory seized by the Russian invasion, the concatenation of bid for battlefield decisions runs straight from Mr. Zelensky to the military’s uniformed wide staff, mostly bypassing the civilians astatine the defence ministry, truthful the turnover is not expected to person an contiguous effect connected the people of the war. The ministry’s relation is chiefly not successful tactics but logistics — procurement, salaries and benefits — wherever changes whitethorn not beryllium felt close away.

Ukrainian anti-corruption groups said the dismissals, though not each of them from positions related to procurement, sent a affirmative awesome astir oversight and a crackdown connected wartime profiteering.

Much of the Western assistance to Ukraine has been successful arms, cogwheel and grooming — not currency — supplied straight to the military, and determination person been nary documented instances of diversions of weaponry. Ukraine’s allies person besides supplied billions successful fiscal aid, helping enactment up a depleted authorities and battered economy, but that wealth has not gone to the defence ministry, whose fund is drawn from Ukrainian taxation revenues.


A pro-Ukrainian symbol, “V,” is painted connected a destroyed car successful Svyatohirsk successful eastbound Ukraine connected Sunday.Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Even so, immoderate U.S. critics of spending connected Ukraine — notably a faction of Republicans successful Congress — person said that reports of corruption were a crushed to spot stricter limits connected subject aid, and immoderate members of NATO are tense that weapons could beryllium illicitly rerouted from their intended purpose.

The determination to disregard the deputies was made astatine a furniture meeting, according to a Ukrainian authorities connection posted connected the Telegram messaging app connected Monday. The authorities did not springiness a crushed for the move.

Mr. Zelensky and apical aides person described turnover arsenic seeking caller enactment aft much than a twelvemonth and a fractional of war. The Ukrainian subject pushed Russian forces backmost successful 3 palmy counteroffensives that reclaimed astir fractional the territory Russia seized successful the full-scale penetration that began successful February 2022. It is present locked successful a bloody, slow-motion combat successful the country’s southbound intended to chopped Russian proviso lines to the occupied Crimean Peninsula.

Earlier this month, Mr. Zelensky dismissed Oleksii Reznikov, the defence minister, aft a din of disapproval from the Ukrainian quality media and civilian nine groups astir inflated prices successful contracts and fiscal mismanagement. At that time, Mr. Zelensky, who named Rustem Umerov arsenic the caller minister, cited the request for “new approaches” 18 months into the war.

Mr. Reznikov, who had won praise for his diplomatic efforts to coordinate a immense travel of weaponry and ammunition into Ukraine, was not personally implicated. Anti-corruption groups have, however, singled retired lower-level officials for mismanagement successful subject contracting, oregon for failing to tackle corruption connected their watch.

The lawman defence ministers removed connected Monday were not the archetypal to suffer their jobs during the war. In January, 1 was dismissed and arrested aft reports of the section paying drastically inflated prices for nutrient for the military. Another was replaced past year, and months aboriginal a Ukrainian quality outlet released what it said was constabulary video of a hunt of the minister’s home, with officers pulling wads of cash retired of a sofa.

Last month, Mr. Zelensky fired each 24 chiefs of Ukraine’s determination subject recruitment offices, aft the authorities acknowledged that dozens of recruitment officers were nether probe for accepting bribes to people eligible men arsenic exempt from service. And determination person been waves of anti-corruption raids and dismissals involving different parts of the government, arsenic well.


Recruits from Ukraine’s Third Brigade remainder betwixt drills successful the Donetsk portion successful July. Last month, Mr. Zelensky fired each 24 chiefs of Ukraine’s determination subject recruitment offices.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Daria Kalenyuk, the enforcement manager of the Kyiv-based Anticorruption Action Center, said that Monday’s dismissals were a “positive step” that showed that Mr. Zelensky recognized the problems successful the ministry and was intent connected uncovering remedies.

“The ministry of defence is 1 of the slightest reformed ministries successful our country, and it is not capable to header with the challenges of the war,” she said successful an interview. The timing of the announcement, she added, sent a awesome to Ukraine’s allies successful Washington up of Mr. Zelensky’s travel that his authorities was committed to overhauling the subject bureaucracy.

Along with the lawman ministers, Kostiantyn Vashchenko was besides dismissed, according to the authorities statement. He had served arsenic the authorities caput for defense, which is simply a elder managerial presumption astatine the ministry. The connection did not sanction immoderate replacements.

The lawman defence ministers released from their posts connected Monday included Hanna Maliar, who has emerged successful caller months arsenic 1 of the astir salient authorities communicators of the regular question of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Hours earlier her dismissal was announced, Ms. Maliar continued to station updates connected Telegram astir the war.

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