Ukraine on Wednesday launched a wave of searches targeting administrations, officials and personalities, the authorities ensuring that the fight against corruption is a priority in the context of the war effort and Western aid.
“Justice will be done,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his daily internet message, reporting “dozens of searches and other actions in different regions and against different people in criminal proceedings.”
The boss of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Vassyl Maliouk, specified that it was a campaign to "deal a blow to the internal enemy".
"This is just the first step," he said, "and we're not going to stop there," vowing to "handcuff" those who have "the audacity to harm Ukraine".
Ukrainian authorities said they raided the home of billionaire Igor Kolomoiski, former interior minister Arsen Avakov and the Ukrainian tax authorities, while the customs department was sacked. Senior officials from the Ministry of Defense also received visits from investigators.
The raids come a week after a series of senior officials were sacked in the wake of a corruption case over army supplies, the first major scandal since the Russian invasion nearly a year ago. .
In addition, kyiv is hosting a summit with the EU on Friday, which has made the fight against corruption a condition for Ukraine's accession to the European bloc. It will be preceded by a meeting of members of the European Commission and the Ukrainian government.
Ukraine, whose war effort largely depends on the support of Europe and the United States, is challenged to curb the financial shenanigans so as not to disgust the allies.
The SBU on Tuesday released images of the search of Mr. Kolomoiski, as part of a case of embezzlement of 40 billion hryvnia (about one billion euros at the current rate) involving oil companies.
This billionaire with a sulphurous reputation was close to Volodymyr Zelensky, before the latter distanced himself.
Investigators have also served senior Ministry of Defense officials with notifications officially making them suspects, including a recently sacked deputy minister for his alleged role in an overpriced food contract for soldiers.
If this does not seem to be the case in this case, Westerners would see with a very dim view that the billions in aid paid over the past year to repel the Russian invader could be diverted.
kyiv is also engaged in a race against time to obtain more powerful armaments.
Ukraine in particular wants high-precision missiles with a range of more than 100 kilometers to destroy Russian supply lines in order to overcome its shortfall in manpower and armament.
So far, the West has refused to deliver these systems and combat aircraft, for fear of provoking a new Russian escalation. US President Joe Biden, however, said Tuesday that he would discuss it with his Ukrainian counterpart.
And Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was ready to send F-16 type fighter planes if there was consensus on the subject within NATO, in an interview with the German daily Bild.
Already, after long procrastination, Europeans and Americans have given the green light this month to deliveries of modern heavy tanks, even if their number is still below what kyiv claims.
Many observers believe that both kyiv and Moscow are preparing new offensives.
After a series of humiliating setbacks in the fall, Russia mobilized hundreds of thousands of reservists.
On Wednesday, at least two people were killed when a Russian missile fired at an apartment building in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian authorities.
"An apartment building, a missile fire, civilians killed and (others) prisoners of the rubble", lamented President Zelensky via Telegram messaging, mentioning "two dead and eight injured" as it stands.
The Russian army, associated with the paramilitary group Wagner, has also intensified the fighting, in particular to take Bakhmout, a city in the East which it has been pounding since the summer. In recent weeks, Moscow has even claimed the capture of several neighboring localities.
Further south they also undertook an offensive on Vougledar.
"The more time passes, the worse the situation gets," Oleksandre, 45, a Ukrainian soldier who fires a mortar from his post set up five kilometers from this city, told AFP.
Roman, the 35-year-old commanding officer of the unit, says he's holding on, but notes that he's outnumbered: "They have equipment, they have weapons and they have more people than us."
For its part, Russia insists that it will continue its assault at all costs, also ensuring that the delivery of longer-range missiles to Ukraine would not change the situation.
"It would mean additional efforts for us, but it will not change the course of events," said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Russian diplomacy has also warned that it will consider possible arms deliveries by Israel to Ukraine as "legitimate targets", after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "looking into the matter".
02/02/2023 00:01:14 - Kiev (Ukraine) (AFP) © 2023 AFP