Ukraine’s Struggle with Corruption Damages Reputation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration is facing growing concerns over the perception of its slow efforts to combat corruption, according to a report by TIME senior correspondent Simon Shuster. The concerns stem from both international observers and the Ukrainian public, as calls for stronger anti-corruption measures continue to mount.

Shuster’s report highlights the challenges facing President Zelenskyy and his government after their visit to the United States in September, during which they sought support and aid. In Washington, they faced persistent demands to address corruption within their own government. This comes at a time when enthusiasm for Ukraine’s ongoing conflict, with no clear end in sight, is waning.

The report emphasizes that the public in Ukraine shares these concerns. It notes that individuals with the means to do so have reportedly been resorting to bribery to evade military service. The situation had escalated to such an extent that on August 11, President Zelenskyy dismissed the heads of draft offices in every region of the country in an attempt to signal his commitment to combating corruption. However, the move backfired, as recruitment nearly ground to a halt, and replacing the fired officials proved to be a challenging task due to the damaged reputation of the draft offices.

The U.S. government has played a critical role in providing aid to Ukraine’s war effort and has outlined specific anti-corruption reforms that are considered mandatory conditions rather than mere suggestions.

In a significant move to address American concerns regarding corruption, President Zelenskyy took the unusual step of dismissing his Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, who was known to be a close associate. Although some advisers argued that Reznikov was not personally involved in corruption, they pointed out that he failed to maintain order within his ministry, which resulted in overpayments for essential supplies, including eggs.

The report also highlights a sense of resignation among Ukrainian officials who have been instructed not only to avoid corruption but also to avoid any appearance of personal enrichment.