Ukraine’s purge of prominent officials intersects heavily with the need to retain substantial Western military aid, Newsweek has been told, as President Volodymyr Zelensky forges ahead with anti-corruption promises.

On Tuesday, a string of high-profile Ukrainian officials resigned or were removed from their positions.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Zelensky’s office, asked to be relieved of his position, although no reason was given for the move. He had previously denied any wrongdoing connected to the personal use of luxury cars.

Tymoshenko thanked Zelensky “for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute,” in an update published on his Telegram page.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Vyacheslav Shapovalov, also “asked to be released” from his post, the country’s defense ministry said in a statement, “in order not to create threats to the stable support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a result of the campaign of accusations related to the procurement of food services.”

Zelensky Walks With Biden
US President Joe Biden walks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky through the colonnade of the White House, in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022. Several top Ukrainian officials were dismissed or resigned on Tuesday after Zelensky announced a crackdown on corruption, which experts told Newsweek was “connected” to future military and humanitarian aid.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Several other ministers left the government on Tuesday, and Oleksiy Symonenko, Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor, was fired. A host of governors in charge of the Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Sumy and Kherson regions were dismissed, Ukraine’s cabinet minister confirmed on Telegram. Two government politicians had already been removed from their jobs over the weekend.

Late on Tuesday evening, Zelensky said further “appropriate steps will be taken in the future.”

“Any internal problems that hinder the state are being cleaned up and will be cleaned up,” he said, adding “it is necessary for our defense and it helps our rapprochement with European institutions.”

He then hinted at a fresh round of changes, but only revealed that details would follow in due course.

As Zelensky indicated, the Ukrainian government will have carefully considered how corruption allegations impact international willingness to pour aid into Kyiv, Newsweek has been told.

Mikhail Alexseev, a San Diego State University political science professor, emphasized that Kyiv “depends on economic and military aid for its survival.”

“That’s why Zelensky acted decisively,” he added, as the Ukrainian president “cannot afford not only impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety.”

Andrii Biletskyi, of Kyiv’s Anti-Corruption Research and Education Center, agreed that if Zelensky’s office had not reacted to recent corruption allegations, Western humanitarian and military aid would quickly dry up.

Zelensky “understands that corruption cases exposed in the Ministries of Defense and Infrastructure will hit on military aid and post-war reconstruction processes,” Biletskyi argued, calling the Ukrainian leader’s crackdown “logical.”

“Western partners see that although corruption is present among the authorities, there is a clear reaction to it from the president and the government. This indicates that we are ready to respond to internal challenges. So these two things are directly connected,” he added to Newsweek.

Ukraine ranked 122nd out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021, and Western allies, including in Congress, have long expressed concern over just where the humanitarian, financial and military aid provided to Kyiv ends up.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told the media that providing “appropriate oversight of all forms of U.S. assistance” in Ukraine is a responsibility they take “extraordinarily seriously.”

“We welcome quick and decisive actions by President Zelensky as well as vigilance by Ukrainian civil society and media to counter corruption,” he added.

The move from Zelensky’s office came just ahead of confirmation from Berlin that Germany would send the long sought-after Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, shortly after it was reported that Washington could be preparing to approve the transfer of M1 Abrams tanks. Both governments had resisted Kyiv’s calls for the main battle tanks, after the U.K. promised to send its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine’s front lines.

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