The purge in the ranks of the Ukrainian government continues.
Following the dismissal of the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Kirill Tymoshenko, several heads of civil-military administrations, it was decided to resign the leadership of the Customs Service of Ukraine. In addition, on February 1, Ukrainian security forces began large-scale searches of several officials of the Ministry of Defense, representatives of Ukrainian business circles, former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and, most interestingly, Igor Kolomoisky, founder of the Ukrainian financial and industrial group Privat, who is recognized by the Ukrainian public as the person who gave Zelensky a ticket to big politics.
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You can say that the fight against corruption is a bright spot in the current Ukrainian realities – in conditions of war, the government of the country purges ministries and services, also fighting with representatives of the oligarchy, which is enriched by this war. But, as in any story, there are exceptions.
Firstly, why were such decisions made so late? The “hunt” for potential corrupt officials began almost a year after the start of a full-scale war in Ukraine. How many funds allocated to Kyiv were stolen and how many weapons were resold on the black market is impossible to establish now. Still, the scale of such actions is horrifying, which was reflected in the infamous CBS movie “Arming Ukraine”.
And here, everything is quite simple. The leadership of the US Democratic Party, whose decisions guarantee permanent financial assistance to Kyiv, pursues its interests in Ukraine. Without a doubt, the scale of corruption in the country, to put it mildly, unpleasantly surprises the American government, which affects the decisions taken about Ukraine. Moreover, according to the poll by Pew Research Center, there is an increase in the share of Democrats who say the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine. It can be assumed that from the side of Ukraine’s allies in this war there was a call: “Either you are fighting corruption and are responsible for the funds provided to you, or financial assistance is significantly reduced.”
Such a scenario of events does not suit Zelensky. That’s why this demonstrative “hunt” for allegedly corrupt officials and oligarchs, including Kolomoisky, is arranged. Suppose the president of Ukraine, in his “war with the oligarchs,” speaks out against the person who did everything possible to promote Zelensky to this post. In that case, it is evident that the former actor received a command from his foreign partners.
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If the fight against corruption, whatever its motives, is clear, then the battle against the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is justified only by Zelensky’s personal ambitions. In December, The Economist mentioned in its article about the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny, that Zelensky was going to replace him with General Syrsky, commander of the Ground Forces of Ukraine.
Indirect evidence of Zelensky’s negative attitude towards Zaluzhny is that the general has long insisted on withdrawing troops from Soledar, currently captured by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation while Zelensky ordered to stand to the last, regardless of losses, even though the loss of this section of the front was already a foregone conclusion. This fact also does not add popularity to the President of Ukraine in the eyes of the Ukrainian people.
The idea is clear – the growing popularity of Zaluzhny as a successful military commander scares Zelensky, and, as reported, the president of Ukraine seriously thinks that Zaluzhny can become his direct and most serious competitor in the upcoming presidential elections in 2024.
There is only one point – Zaluzhny is not interested in playing big politics. All that interests the general is the victory in the war and the freedom of the Ukrainian people, which creates unprecedented popularity for him in his native country. No wonder, according to all polls, he ranks second in the list of the most popular Ukrainian politicians, even though he is not a politician.
The opposite is Zelensky, who continues to publicly insist on financial and military assistance to Ukraine, two-thirds of which diverge into other people’s pockets, which the president is well aware of. Concerned about preserving his image as a successful politician, he makes decisions to preserve it but not strengthen the country’s defense capability. It’s already clear to both his partners from EU and NATO member states and members of the Ukrainian government.
The conclusions regarding Zelensky are disappointing. It is necessary to fight the enemy. It is essential to fight corruption. But how do you deal with it when you are part of a corrupt system? How and why to fight a man whose decisions save the lives of Ukrainian people and bring Ukraine victories on the battlefield is unclear.
The above is an Op-ed submission from Johnston Harewood
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