Ukraine fires army enlistment officers for receiving bribes to help Ukrainians dodge war

Ukraine fires army enlistment officers for receiving bribes to help Ukrainians dodge war


On Friday (11 August) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired all the country’s regional military recruitment chiefs for taking bribes and smuggling people out of the country. More than 30 officials facing criminal charges along with regional officials in charge of military conscription have been removed in this anti-corruption drive.

The decision of sacking all the chief recruitment officials was approved at a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC). The officials fired would be replaced by war veterans and soldiers wounded at the front. The chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, General Valeriy Zaluzhny has been made the in-charge of implementing these new changes.

Ukrainian President Zelensky stated that a state investigation into centres across Ukraine exposed abuses by officials ranging from illegal enrichment to transporting draft-eligible (eligible for fighting) men across the border despite a wartime ban on them leaving the country. 

In the video message, Zelensky equated that corruption at the time of war is like treason. He said, “This system should be run by people who know exactly what war is and why cynicism and bribery during the war is treason.”

However, Zelensky added that those officers who have been removed but have committed no wrongdoing should serve at the front “if they want to keep epaulets and prove their dignity.”

Since the time the Russia-Ukraine war began, Ukrainian prosecutors had opened 112 cases against 33 officials involved in recruitment scams. This has, again and again, highlighted that corruption is deeply entrenched in the Ukrainian government. 

Recently, two military recruitment officers were accused of making a fortune for themselves by fabricating false documents that label men as unfit for service. In some cases, the officials had collected $10,000 per head to declare fighting-fit men as unfit for services and later smuggle them out of the country.

As the Russia-Ukraine war has been ongoing for the last 18 months, Ukraine has suffered around 1,50,000 casualties including dead and wounded soldiers. To replace them, the Zelensky government has been enlisting more troops to replace the killed or wounded soldiers. 

However, an officer in the Territorial Defense Force, Andriy stated that corruption in recruitment centers was well known and removing some of those responsible for it would unlikely have a big impact on mobilisation. On the condition of not disclosing his surname, Andriy said, “Those who would like to avoid would do that anyway.”

Deep-rooted Corruption in the Ukrainian government

Zelensky has failed to ensure Ukrainians that their sacrifices have been worthwhile. Similarly, he has been failing to satisfy his Western backers that he does not tolerate corruption and that the military aid they have been pumping into their country has not been wasted.

Evidently, in June, Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainska Pravda did an investigation which revealed that a military recruitment officer from the southern Odesa region had bought real estate and cars worth millions of dollars in a coastal area of Spain. The official, Yehor Smirnov, was removed from his duty and sent to the front lines. This incident forced Zelensky to order an inspection of the entire system, conducted by several national security and law enforcement agencies.

On Thursday, 10 August, Ukrainska Pravda reported that Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov could be replaced imminently.

Interestingly, Zelensky came to power in 2019, with a promise of weeding out corruption from the Ukrainian government. However, earlier his administration was rocked by the scandal involving paying drastically higher prices for food for the military. This eventually led to the ouster of several top government officials. Just like the recent recruitment scam case, the Zelensky government only took action in the food procurement scam after it was widely reported by the Ukrainian news media.

In June, an opinion poll commissioned by Transparency revealed that 77 percent of Ukrainians perceive corruption as one of the most critical challenges facing their country.


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