Ukraine has taken a tough stance on corruption as it continues negotiations to join the European Union.
Ukrainian officials have raided the homes of influential billionaires in what allies of President Volodymyr Zelensky have touted as a wartime sweeping crackdown on corruption that would change the country.
Ihor Kolomoisky, who held shares in two oil companies, Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta, was seized under martial law last November after the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) disclosed embezzlement of more than $1 billion. was done.
“Any criminal who dares to harm Ukraine, especially in wartime, must clearly understand that we will put handcuffs on his hands,” said the head of the Ukrainian security service. Vasyl Malyuk, spokesman for the SBU Telegram channel.
Separate raids were conducted at the tax office and at the home of Arsen Avakov, who headed the Ukrainian police as Minister of the Interior from 2014 to 2021.
The SBU said it was cracking down on “persons who are committing acts that harm national security in various fields” and promised to provide more details in the coming days.
Kolomoisky, who is now facing a fraud case in the US, has been at the center of years of corruption allegations and legal disputes that Western donors must settle if Kyiv is to remain popular. It has said.
Many also wondered if Zelensky would act against Kolomoisky after he became famous on the television sitcom.
David Alakamia, a senior member of Zelensky’s National Servants Party, confirmed the search and separate raid on Kolomoisky’s home.
Alakamia said all customs officers were to be dismissed, and that senior defense officials had been served notices informing them that they were suspects in the incident.
“War changes a country. If someone is not ready to change, the state itself will come and help them change.
In a statement, the Attorney General’s Office later said, “Corruption in war is looting.”
Ukraine’s long-term fight against corruption is crucial, as Russia’s aggression makes Kyiv highly dependent on Western support and reforms need to be carried out in order to join the 27-member EU. have meaning.
The raid comes days before the EU summit, where Ukraine is expected to seek concrete steps to join the bloc of 27 member states.
In Zelensky’s Tuesday night speech, he discussed further anti-corruption measures to be implemented.
“We are preparing new reforms in Ukraine. Reforms that will change social, legal and political reality in many ways, making it more humane, transparent and effective.” he said.
In 2021, Ukraine ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Index.
More than a dozen senior officials were removed from their positions last week following a string of scandals and allegations of corruption in Ukraine’s wartime government’s biggest turmoil.
With the influx of Western money, Zelensky, who has taken office with the promise of fighting corruption before the invasion begins, hopes to wipe the country’s image clean.