Ukraine admits $262 million in military corruption
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has claimed that an internal probe of the country’s military procurement practices revealed $262 million in theft-related costs; the alleged perpetrators may be criminally prosecuted amid a crackdown on corruption.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov on Monday announced the results of an investigation that began when he took the job four months ago. He said the ministry is working to cleanse the country’s military of “unscrupulous participants, inside and outside the institution,” as well as collaborating with law enforcement agencies to hold corrupt officials accountable.
“We are eradicating corruption,” Umerov insisted. “The system resists, but we will overcome it.” He added that news of corruption arrests and prosecutions will become more common, and a new “procurement architecture,” based on NATO standards, will help prevent future theft.
Ukraine consistently ranks as one of the world’s most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International. A CBS News report in August 2022 indicated that waste and corruption were preventing about 70% of the Western weaponry being donated to Kiev from making it to the battlefield. When Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky introduced Umerov as the country’s new defense minister last September, he identified curbing corruption as one of the five key priorities for the job.
Umerov said the Defense Ministry worked with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) last month to foil a corruption plot involving a $39 million ammunition transaction. Changes in procurement practices helped save about $92 million, or 20%, on non-weapons purchases. For instance, negotiations on the purchase of headphones cut the price by more than $300,000.
“We are rebuilding procurement mechanisms to ensure the continued delivery of weapons and non-lethal supplies to the armed forces,” Umerov said. “From now on, the Defense Ministry sets the rules of the game, forms policy and controls bidding.”
The Ukrainian military saw multiple corruption scandals under Umerov’s predecessor, Aleksey Reznikov, including food purchases at inflated prices and the acquisition of jackets that reportedly almost tripled in cost between when they were shipped and when they were delivered. Zelensky fired the directors of Ukraine’s 33 military recruitment centers in August because they allegedly took bribes to sign off on bogus medical exemptions for would-be soldiers who were desperate to avoid conscription.