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31 Aug, 2022 09:54

Ukrainian officials accused of stealing trainloads of aid

The allegation comes amid mass raids by the SBU and anti-corruption agency in Zaporozhye Region 
Ukrainian officials accused of stealing trainloads of aid

Ukrainian officials in the eastern Zaporozhye Region are being investigated for allegedly stealing massive amounts of humanitarian aid sent to them. They are accused of looting hundreds of freight cars’ worth of goods.

Raids at offices and addresses associated with the suspected embezzlers were reported on Tuesday. Agents of the SBU, Ukraine’s successor to the KGB, and the anti-corruption agency NABU conducted the operations, according to a statement by the agencies. 

The region is mostly controlled by Russian forces, but its capital Zaporozhye and some of the surrounding areas are under Kiev’s control. The raids targeted the Kiev-appointed administration and members of the city council, according to the SBU and NABU. The agencies also reported confiscating what they believe to be narcotics and illegal firearms while searching the premises. 

While the official statement offered few details, a more comprehensive account of the ongoing probe came from Ukrainian public figure Evgeny Shevchenko, who is widely described by the local media as an unpaid agent for the NABU. The agency had previously confirmed working with him.

According to his post on Facebook, the suspected grifters made off with “almost all humanitarian aid” sent to the region, selling the goods through local retail chains. The total volume of what was stolen amounts to 22 sea transport containers, 389 freight train cars and 220 trucks, Shevchenko claimed. 

The activist named several senior officials in Zaporozhye Region as suspects and shamed them for posing as Ukrainian patriots while profiting at the expense of the country.  

Shevchenko is a controversial figure in Ukraine. He emerged from the radical wing of the so-called Maidan protests of 2013-2014 and made a name for himself as an associate of militia commander and former MP Konstantin Grishin, who prefers to be called by his nom de guerre Semyon Semenchenko. 

Last year, Shevchenko and Semenchenko were arrested on allegations of involvement with an illegal militia. The arrests came after Shevchenko had accused the office of President Vladimir Zelensky of derailing an intelligence operation aimed at luring a group of Russian security contractors to Ukraine and detaining them.  

Shevchenko believes that his arrest and that of Semenchenko were an act of revenge by Zelensky’s chief-of-staff, Andrey Ermak. In his post about the raids in Zaporozhye Region, he linked the suspects with the president and the head of his office, pointing out that the officials targeted had been appointed by Kiev.