N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
For a long time already Ukraine is, after Russia, listed as Europe’s most corrupted country on the index of Transparency International and the spectre of corruption is once again haunting the country. The war is offering good opportunities for (more) corruption. Last week President Zelensky forced fifteen prominent people to resign because they has been involved in fraud. Among them the top-advisor of the President, four deputy-ministers, an assistant attorney general and five regional governors. Zelensky had no other choice. The White House and certainly the Republicans in the US Congress have long been concerned about corruption in Zelensky’s country. Concerned that guns and other arms will be stolen and resold; sums of money ‘creamed off’ along the way.
Ukraine can only survive by the grace of international donors; and the United States is by far out the biggest one. It’s about a lot of money. Half of Kiev’s budget comes from abroad; and it is nothing compared to what is yet to come if the country ever needs to be rebuilt. In July 2022, the cost was already estimated at 690 billion euros. Every missile strike since has racked up the bill. Much of that money will have to come from international private investors. In the years before the war these same investors saw reasons not to invest any money in Ukraine. They deeply distrusted the Ukrainian courts and an administration that collected percentages and bribery on all levels.
The war has not made the fight against corruption any easier. But President Zelensky seems quite relaxed about it. He pointed out that the focus of his policies is on war and not on the fight against corruption. He is hesitant in appointing anti-corruption officers. On January 10, a three-year plan for the fight against fraud should have been approved. It has not been presented yet.