Ukraine corruption scandal: US promises ‘rigorous monitoring’ of aid

The United States on Tuesday vowed to closely monitor Ukraine’s spending of billions of dollars in aid amid a damaging corruption scandal that has led to a string of resignations in Kiev.

While Washington said it had no evidence that Western funds had been misused, US State Department spokesman Ned Price promised there would be “rigorous monitoring” to ensure American aid was not diverted.

Several senior Ukrainian officials were fired on Tuesday amid a corruption scandal involving illegal payments to deputy ministers and overinflated military contracts.

In total, five regional governors, four deputy ministers and two heads of government agencies left their posts, along with the deputy head of the presidential administration and the deputy prosecutor general.

In his overnight address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the purge was “necessary” to maintain a “strong state”, while Price praised it as “swift” and “necessary”.

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Still, the scandal comes at a sensitive time for Kiev, which is seeking increasing support from the West and stalling Russia’s advance in the east.

Corruption could dampen Western enthusiasm for Ukraine’s government, which has a long history of unstable governance.

At the weekend, anti-corruption police arrested the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of accepting a €367,000 bribe to buy expensive generators, a charge he denies.

This comes at a time when Ukrainian civilians are suffering prolonged power outages due to Russia’s damaging strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure.

Meanwhile, an investigation by a Ukrainian newspaper accused the Ministry of Defense of signing contracts to supply food to front-line soldiers at “two or three” the normal price.

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According to analysts, the high-profile resignations show that corruption is not only criminal, but also political.

“It’s a good example of how institutions and anti-corruption and checks and balances were built after that.” [2014 Maidan] “Revolution of Dignity is working despite the ongoing war,” Kateryna Ryzhenko of Transparency International Ukraine, an anti-corruption NGO, told Euronews.

“However, the last part of these events should be played by the prosecutor’s office, the investigative body and the court, when these cases will be examined to the full extent prescribed by law,” she added.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, which allegedly signed an overpriced 320 mln.

On Sunday, she dismissed the allegations as “disinformation” and warned that they harmed “defense interests at a special time”.

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In January, the leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic called Western aid to Ukraine a “money laundering scheme.”

“I see that some are worried about foreign aid to Ukraine. Don’t worry! This is a money laundering scheme that works. Western and Ukrainian officials will embezzle these funds, and no more than 15 percent will reach the trenches,” Ramzan Kadyrov wrote in Telegram.

There is no evidence for this claim from a staunch Putin ally.

Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on the promise of sweeping reforms to fight corruption and improve the economy.

During his tenure, the President of Ukraine fired a number of ministers and officials, fighting against the malign influence of powerful people in the country.

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