| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

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

An outsider might find it strange that Ukraine would intensify its fight against corruption at this moment, when missiles are falling on cities and people are fleeing for their lives.

However, anti-graft agencies have reopened an old investigation into a government scheme that they claim resulted in overpayments of more than $1 billion by electricity customers, as well as a case that was put on hold in 2020 regarding the alleged theft of more than $350 million in assets and money from a state-controlled oil company.

They’ve launched new actions too, including this month the arrest in absentia of an ex-state bank boss over his suspected role in the embezzlement of $5 million. He denies wrongdoing.

“Every week, there are one or two big developments plus seven or eight smaller ones that are still important,” said legal expert Vadym Valko, who monitors the work of anti-corruption authorities in Ukraine, which is fighting to rid itself of oligarchs and strengthen its vulnerable institutions.

The activity reflects a parallel war Kyiv is waging against high-level graft, according to Reuters interviews with half a dozen Ukrainian anti-corruption monitors and officials. The drive is deemed urgent enough for the government to devote resources to, even during Russia’s invasion.

Indeed, anti-corruption agencies flag their work almost daily in a flurry of statements and social media posts. In November alone, they reported having launched investigations into 44 new criminal cases, issued 17 notices of suspicion to people being investigated and sent six indictments to court.

In 2022, prosecutors have filed at least 109 indictments in 42 cases, the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) told Reuters, adding that 25 convictions had been handed down.

The work can’t wait, according to the people interviewed, because curbing endemic corruption is key to reassuring Western partners preparing to send tens of billions of dollars of aid that will be needed to rebuild the country in coming years.

They assert that it would also be essential to achieving a status that ensures Ukraine’s long-term security from any potential aggression: membership in the European Union, which stipulates that combating corruption is a need before candidacy negotiations can start.

In reference to Western funders, Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, first deputy leader of the parliamentary committee on anti-corruption policy, stated, “It’s vitally crucial right now for Ukraine to present itself as a predictable partner.”

In reality, Ukraine is engaged in two battles at once: an external conflict with Russia and an internal conflict with its own corrupt post-Soviet past.

  • Reuters