Ukraine’s Zelenskiy vows more anti-corruption moves amid raids
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian business magnate Ihor Kolomoiskiy talks to journalists on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Yalta European Strategy (YES) in Kyiv, Ukraine September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
By Tom Balmforth, Max Hunder and Dan Peleschuk
KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian authorities raided the home of an influential billionaire on Wednesday, part of what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said was an effort to eradicate corruption and help the country meet standards. clean governance of the West.
Separate raids were carried out at the Tax Office and the home of a former interior minister, two days before Kyiv holds a summit with the European Union, where it wants to show it’s up pressure after years of chronic corruption.
Ukraine sees the summit as key to its hopes of one day joining the bloc, a goal that has become increasingly urgent in the wake of Russia’s invasion, and has also begun a political reshuffle. More than a dozen officials have quit or been fired.
Zelenskiy pledged to do more to ensure the clean operation of the state, especially citing the Ministry of Defense.
“Unfortunately, there are some areas where the only way to ensure legitimacy is to change top officials along with institutional change,” he said in a video address.
“There will be many changes needed so that in the end people won’t get dirty in their place.”
Security officials searched the home of businessman Ihor Kolomoiskiy, a one-time ally of Zelenskiy, in what some media reports say is an investigation into possible financial crimes.
Kolomoiskiy could not be immediately reached for comment. He has previously denied any wrongdoing.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) later said it had uncovered a plot to embezzle more than $1 billion in oil producer Ukrnafta and oil refinery Ukrtatnafta, companies that Kolomoiskiy once owned in part. .
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Photos circulating on social media show Kolomoiskiy observing in the presence of at least one SBU officer inside a wooden house. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the images.
David Arakhamia, a member of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, confirmed a search of Kolomoiskiy’s home as well as separate raids at the Tax Office and the home of Arsen Avakov, the former interior minister.
Arakhamia said the entire management of the Customs Service had been fired and senior Defense Department officials had been served notices indicating they were suspects in a case.
“The country will change in war. If someone is not ready to change, it is the state that will come and help them change,” Arakhamia wrote on Telegram.
The Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement that “wartime corruption is looting” and that four current and former senior officials have been “reported as suspected”, along with senior Ukrtatnafta management. .
The head of the State Bureau of Investigation said law enforcement action was “just the beginning”.
Zelenskiy presided over the war’s first major political shake-up last week after a wave of outcry over a corruption scandal involving food contracts for the military.
He was elected in 2019 with an anti-corruption ticket and in late 2021 launched a crackdown on wealthy businessmen known as influential “oligarchs”.