The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine is shaken by a corruption scandal. It turned out that the department purchased food for military personnel with astronomical margins.
“Someone donates the last pennies, and the uncles from the ministry fill their pockets with tripled enthusiasm,” Ukrainian commentators lament.
Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov denies the allegations. He believes that he was the victim of an information attack”.
“Prices have gone into space”
An investigation into the activities of the Ministry of Defense was published by the UNIAN agency and the Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper. The authors argue that the department buys food for military personnel at prices 2-3 times higher than in ordinary stores.
In particular, the Ministry of Defense buys eggs for 17 hryvnias apiece, although the retail price in Kyiv is 7 hryvnias, potatoes – 22 hryvnias per kilogram, although the price in the store is 8-9 hryvnias, chicken thigh is ordered for 120 hryvnias, while the price in the store is 80 hryvnias.
Journalists provide a copy of the contract for catering in 2023 in military units located in Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Poltava, Sumy, Cherkasy and Chernihiv regions. The authors emphasize that these regions are far from the war zone, and therefore there is no extra charge for the delivery of products.
The transaction amount is UAH 13.16 billion (more than $350 million). The Ministry of Defense signed a contract with Active Company LLC. A company with an authorized capital of one thousand hryvnias ($27) previously appeared in a criminal case related to the supply of beef for pre-trial detention centers.
A month before the conclusion of the current deal, Valery Melesh, who previously headed the Belotserkovsky Military Torg enterprise of the Ministry of Defense, became the founder and director of Aktiv Kompani. The company is obviously closely connected with the leadership of the ministry.
The authors of the investigation note that after February last year, the Ukrainian government changed the rules for holding auctions. Bidding on the official public procurement platform Prozorro was canceled, information about contracts was hidden from the public.
“There is no doubt that even before the Ministry of Defense made a margin on billions of deliveries. But then the purchase prices were published in “Prozorro” and they were overstated not so boorishly. Now the department has received complete freedom, as a result, prices are flying into space, ” the publication says.
The Ministry of Defense announced an information attack
The publication of the investigation caused a storm of indignation in social networks. The general tone of the commentators boils down to the fact that “officials steal while the soldiers shed blood at the front.” “Someone donates the last penny, and the uncles from the ministry line their pockets with tripled enthusiasm. Maybe it’s time to introduce the death penalty? one of the Ukrainian users was indignant.
At the same time, Verkhovna Rada deputy Maryana Bezuglaya said that the Ministry of Defense purchased not only food products with astronomical margins. According to her, the state audit service checks all the facts. The head of the Servant of the People faction, David Arakhamia, threatened that “there will definitely be plantings in the spring.” “Some people have lost their minds and loot without fear or remorse,” he protested.
It is interesting that the media and activists, who are usually associated with Western structures, show particular zeal in unwinding the scandal. Thus, Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Center operating on grants, said that Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov must either refute the price gouging or resign. And the Western-controlled anti-corruption agencies NABU and SAPO announced that they had begun considering abuses as part of a criminal case. At the same time, they launched an investigation even before publications in the media, based on their own developments.
The Department of Defense denies all charges. The head of the department, Alexei Reznikov, said that a “common technical error” had occurred. “The document, published in the media, indicated an abnormal price for eggs, which was perceived as 17 hryvnias apiece. A conspiracy theory has been built on this. In fact, the supplier indicated the price not for pieces, but for the weight of the eggs. And I didn’t change the data when I transferred information from one table to another,” the minister said, adding that “technical errors” are already being corrected.
Reznikov also noted that the scandal erupted before a meeting at the Ramstein air base, where the supply of a new batch of weapons to Ukraine was discussed. According to him, “an artificial information attack under a fictitious pretext” was organized to block the transfer of tanks and other heavy weapons.
Later, a closed meeting of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security Issues was held. According to media reports, the deputies accused the ministry of using shell companies that are associated with former food suppliers for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They also promised to adopt a law that would allow partial disclosure of information on procurement during martial law.
When the scandal reached its climax, the military department had to make personnel decisions. The head of the public procurement department, Bogdan Khmelnitsky, and the deputy minister of defense, Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who was in charge of logistics, resigned. It seems that they are not yet facing criminal prosecution – the Ministry of Defense still denies all charges. The department’s publication states that the resignations of officials “are a worthy act in the traditions of European and democratic politics, a demonstration that defense interests are higher than any cabinets or chairs.”
The resignation of the minister will hit the image of Ukraine
Experts believe that the Americans initiated a series of recent corruption proceedings in Ukraine.
- It is important for the Biden administration to show Congress that the fight against Ukrainian corruption is underway. “Mr. Zelensky is good, so let’s keep giving him money.” Of course, this is not a true fight against corruption, but window dressing. New people who come to replace those who left will steal in the same way,” political scientist, HSE professor Marat Bashirov says in an interview.
Political scientist Oleksandr Dudchak believes that Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov will retain his post.
- In a sense, Reznikov has become the face of Ukraine – he comes to all international meetings, meets with other defense ministers, begs for weapons. The resignation of such a person will hit the image of Ukraine. In addition, the already low morale of the Ukrainian military may fall.
In addition, the office of the President of Ukraine fears the strengthening of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhny. Reznikov, in a sense, balances the commander-in-chief in the military leadership, the expert says.
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