President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government dismissed two more officials on Tuesday, the latest changes in Ukraine’s leadership that are part of a renewed push to root out corruption.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said that Viacheslav Shapovalov, a deputy minister, had “asked to be fired” following reports of corruption in military food procurement. The ministry said in a statement that relieving Mr. Shapovalov of his duties would “preserve the trust” of Ukrainians and the country’s international partners.
The prosecutor general’s office said in a brief statement that it had fired a deputy, Oleksii Symonenko. While the statement did not specify a reason, Ukrainian media reported that the dismissal came after Mr. Symonenko provoked a scandal by taking a wartime vacation to Spain.
The dismissals reflected Mr. Zelensky’s goal of reassuring Ukraine’s allies — which are sending billions of dollars in military aid to fight Russia’s invasion — that his government will show zero tolerance for graft as it prepares for a possible new offensive by Moscow.
They also appeared to reflect a broader shake-up in Mr. Zelensky’s government, which until now has stayed remarkably unchanged through nearly one year of war. But earlier this month, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, Denys Monastyrsky, was killed in a helicopter crash along with several other officials. And on Tuesday, helped shape Ukraine’s wartime goals and oversaw the country’s police, emergency services and border patrol units.
Details of the allegations against the officials were not made public. But over the weekend, a Ukrainian newspaper reported that the Ministry of Defense had purchased food for the military during the war at inflated prices. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov called the allegations “absolute nonsense” and the product of “distorted information.”
In its statement on Tuesday, the ministry emphasized that the “voiced accusations are unfounded and baseless,” but called Mr. Shapovalov’s request for dismissal “a worthy act in the traditions of European and democratic politics, a demonstration that the interests of defense are higher than any cabinets or chairs.”
The news came hours after Mr. Zelensky said that government officials would be prohibited from traveling abroad for vacation or any other unofficial purpose, a move intended to show that corruption would not be allowed to undermine the country’s defense.
Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly address that he had signed a decree approving the decision to restrict travel, which was made by the country’s National Security and Defense Council after a deputy minister’s dismissal over the weekend over accusations of embezzlement. The president said a border-crossing procedure for officials at all levels of government would be developed within days.
He also signaled that there would be a shake-up in his government, saying he had “made personnel decisions” involving ministries, regional governments, law enforcement agencies and other departments.
A senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Twitter that those moves show that the Ukrainian president “directly responds to a key public demand — justice for all.”
Zelenskyy’s personnel decisions testify to the key priorities of the state… No “blind eyes”. During the war, everyone should understand their responsibility. The President sees and hears society. And he directly responds to a key public demand – justice for all…
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) January 24, 2023
Corruption plagued Ukraine long before Russia launched its full-scale invasion 11 months ago, and rooting out corruption has remained a priority both for Kyiv and its allies. Weapons and aid worth billions of dollars have been flooding into the country, and the price tag for reconstruction efforts is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Ukraine is also gearing up to fight a possible Russian offensive this spring, and allies are preparing to send Kyiv billions of dollars of additional matériel, including some of their most advanced weaponry.
The European Union has tied Ukraine’s candidate status to overhauls concerning the rule of law, justice and corruption. In addition to expressing worries about the risk of corruption tainting postwar reconstruction efforts, some U.S. officials have voiced concerns that American weapons given to Ukraine could be diverted or stolen for resale.