Amidst a deluge of corruption scandals, particularly with regards to military graft, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov resigned on Monday. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he will be replaced a day earlier. This comes as some US lawmakers have cited graft as a reason to impose limits on military and financial aid to Kiev for its war with Moscow.
Zelensky has come under pressure from the West to ensure “Ukrainian officials were not siphoning off some of the billions of dollars in aid that was flowing into [Kiev],” according to the New York Times. Last week, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with the heads of a special investigative agency, a prosecutorial office, and a court. The meeting involved discussions about cracking down against wartime corruption.
Last month, following allegations that some officials were taking bribes from men seeking to avoid conscription, Zelensky fired the heads of all regional military recruitment offices.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry is currently subject to “widening investigations” and mired in scandals. “At one point this year, about $980 million in weapons contracts had missed their delivery dates, according to government figures, and some prepayments for weapons had vanished into overseas accounts of weapons dealers, according to reports made to Parliament. Though precise details have not emerged, the irregularities suggest that procurement officials in the ministry did not vet suppliers, or allowed weapons dealers to walk off with money without delivering the armaments,” the report said.
It is stressed in the Times report that such revelations are not yet touching on foreign military or financial aid, while it is acknowledged that “military spending now accounts for nearly half of Ukraine’s national budget, and the reports of contracting scandals point to a shift in the sources of public corruption.”
There is extensive evidence, however, that Western provided arms are not making it to their intended destinations. CNN has reported that US arms sent to Ukraine quickly fall into a “big black hole,” leaving proper tracking nearly impossible. Last year, in August, a now-redacted CBS report – which included on the ground sources – exposed that potentially 60-70% of the weapons being shipped never reach the front lines.
In October, Finland’s national law enforcement agency warned weapons being shipped to Ukraine were ending up in the hands of criminal gangs. Only weeks later, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari alerted that “the situation in the Sahel and the raging war in Ukraine serve as major sources of weapons and fighters that bolster the ranks of the terrorists in the Lake Chad Region.”
Reznikov is said to have viewed his job “as rallying allies to provide weaponry. He was not directly responsible for the day-to-day running of the war and his dismissal is not seen as linked to the slow progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive,” the Times report added.
During an interview earlier this year, Reznikov boasted that NATO members can exploit the Ukrainian battlefield as a “testing ground.” In Ukraine, they can “actually see if their weapons work, how efficiently they work and if they need to be upgraded. For the military industry of the world, you can’t invent a better testing ground,” he said.