Ukraine’s parallel war on corruption to unlock door to West

KYIV: To an outsider, this seems like an unlikely time for Ukraine double the fight against corruptionas rockets rained down on cities and people fought for their lives.
However, anti-corruption agencies have revived a years-long investigation into an official scheme they say led to electricity customers overpaying by $1 billion, plus a criminal case. The trial was stalled in 2020 for allegedly stealing more than $350 million in property and money from a state-controlled oil company.
They have also introduced new actions, including the absentee arrest of a former state-owned banker this month for his suspected role in the $5 million embezzlement case. He denied wrongdoing.
“Every week there are one or two major developments plus seven or eight smaller but still important developments,” said legal expert Vadym Valko, who tracks the work of anti-corruption agencies in Ukraine. . strengthen its vulnerable institutions.
The operation reflects a parallel battle that Kyiv is waging against high-profile corruption, according to Reuters interviews with half a dozen Ukrainian officials and anti-corruption officials. The impetus was deemed urgent enough for the government to devote resources to, even during the invasion of Russia.
Indeed, almost every day anti-corruption agencies mark their work in a series of statements and social media posts. In November alone, these agencies said they had prosecuted and investigated 44 new criminal cases, issued 17 notices to prosecute the person being investigated, and sent 6 indictments to court.
Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office ((SAPO) told Reuters, adding that 25 sentences had been handed down.
Work can’t wait, according to interviewees, because curbing pervasive corruption is key to reassuring Western partners who are preparing to send tens of billions of dollars in needed aid to rebuild. country in the coming years.
It is also important, they say, to win a status that guarantees Ukraine’s long-term security from any future aggression: membership of the European Union, the organization says, goes above and beyond greed. corruption is a must for candidacy negotiations to begin.
Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, first deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on anti-corruption policy, referring to Western donors, said: “It is extremely important right now for Ukraine to present itself as being a predictable counterpart.
“In fact, there are two wars going on in Ukraine at the same time: an open war with Russia, and another war with a post-Soviet corrupt past going on inside.”
The fight against corruption is supported by the President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who swore this month that Ukraine would simultaneously fight high-profile corruption and Russian aggression.
“The reform story continues,” the actor turned wartime leader, who was elected in 2019 on a pledge to clean up Ukraine, said in his nightly address.
“It continues even in this kind of war.”
According to experts and officials, anti-corruption efforts, which continued after the February 24 invasion, intensified over the summer under SAPO’s new director.
Oleksandr Klymenko assumed the position in July after Zelenskyy publicly demanded confirmation of his appointment because the committee that had selected him more than half a year earlier had yet to formally sign off on the move.
“Without the official head of such an organization, its full operation is impossible,” Zelenskyy said at the time.
Klymenko has provided the administrative mechanism to launch a number of high-profile cases and promote new ones, residents said.
For example, SAPO announced in late September that Klymenko had reopened a lawsuit over its alleged scheme to overcharge electricity consumers. SAPO prosecutors said that at the time of the detention, it had been opened and closed several times over two years due to procedural errors and omissions.
In announcing the revival, Klymenko’s office said the case files had not been thoroughly reviewed by prosecutors and had appointed a new team to investigate, involving at least 15 suspects, mostly current and former officials.
In late October, anti-corruption officials announced they had made a new notice of suspicion in the case, when the suspects were informed that they were under investigation.
In the alleged plot to take more than $350 million from the oil company, prosecutors in early September released notices about eight suspects awaiting SAPO approval since early 2020.
The new anti-corruption cases include an investigation launched in October into a former tax executive suspected of receiving more than $20 million in kickbacks. Reuters was unable to reach the former official for comment.
A SAPO spokesman said Klymenko was not available to comment on his work. The agency does not comment on individual cases and recent series of activities, but said it is currently handling 693 cases with its sister agency, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).
The United States, which is supplying Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons to fight Russia, supports Kiev’s efforts to root out corruption.
“We are actively working with the Ukrainian government to ensure accountability, even in challenging conflict environments,” a State Department spokesman said.
More money is expected as donors weigh the size of their contribution to the proposed reconstruction of Ukraine, a project largely dependent on foreign aid.
Central Bank Governor Andriy Pyshnyi said this month he expected to receive 18 billion euros ($19 billion) from the EU and $10 billion from Washington next year in immediate budget aid alone. instantly.
Defeating corruption will not be easy in a country where experts say much of it stems from the chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Despite progress in recent years, Ukraine still ranks 122 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.
Andrii Borovyk, executive director of Transparency Ukraine’s office, welcomed the current anti-corruption effort but said the real measure of success would be the number of convictions and the state’s success in recalling proceeds from corruption as well as the enforcement of asset declarations.
“We’ll need to see what the end result will be,” he told Reuters.
The risks have never been higher since Kiev embarked on an anti-corruption campaign after the “Maidan” revolution of 2014 underpinning Ukraine’s pro-European approach.
Both SAPO and NABU were established in 2015. SAPO oversees investigations initiated by the NABU and submits them to the anti-corruption court, which commenced operations in 2019.
Collectively, they comprise the core of Ukraine’s anti-corruption law enforcement infrastructure, a set of professional outfits where employees are paid relatively well.
For example, SAPO prosecutors earn at least $2,500 a month, six times the Ukrainian monthly average. Fast business; The agency is currently in the process of hiring eight new prosecutors.
The NABU is also looking for a new director, which the EU sees as a key position to complement Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts.
Even in the chaos of war, agencies are now more productive than in previous years, according to Olena ShcherbanDeputy executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Kiev, a non-profit think tank partly funded by Western nations that advocates for reforms and monitors Ukraine’s progress.
“NABU and SAPO are now more efficient than the last few years combined,” she said.
Anti-corruption agencies in Kiev are aware that West watching.
Kateryna Butko, a civic activist who serves on SAPO’s selection committee, admits that Ukraine’s fight against corruption is often difficult. She added that foreign donors have a clear incentive to ensure it succeeds by continuing to provide strong policy direction.
“The job of our anti-corruption agencies is to make sure that Western money is not stolen,” she said.
Ordinary Ukrainians will also be watching, as Kiev’s recent victories on the battlefield have raised hopes that the country can win the war and successfully rebuild.
An October survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that at least 88% of people nationwide believe Ukraine will be a prosperous member of the EU within 10 years.
Kyiv resident Kateryna, who is visiting a Christmas tree with a friend in the capital, says securing a military victory is Ukraine’s top priority.
But the 27-year-old, who did not give her last name, said it was important to establish a just society in which to live, instilled with a clear sense that no one is above the law.
“We don’t have such understanding here yet.”


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