- Zelensky promises changes amid corruption scandal
- Poland says plans to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine
- Germany indicates approval of tank exports as allies press
KYIV, Jan. 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said staff changes at senior and lower levels were being carried out following high-profile corruption allegations after Russia’s invasion threatened to dampen Western enthusiasm for the Kiev government.
News of a new scandal in Ukraine, long a shaky regime, has seen European countries at odds over Kiev’s delivery of German-made Panther 2 tanks – the workhorse of armies across Europe, saying Ukraine must break through and retake Russian lines. Territory.
“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – regarding ministries and other federal government structures, as well as officials at various levels in the regions and law enforcement,” Zelensky said in his video address on Monday night.
Zelenskiy, who did not identify the officials to be replaced, said his plans include stricter oversight of travel abroad on official business.
Several Ukrainian media reported that cabinet ministers and senior officials could be fired immediately.
Anti-corruption police said on Sunday they had arrested a deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of receiving $400,000 in kickbacks for importing generators last September, a charge the minister denies.
A newspaper investigation accused the defense ministry of overcharging suppliers for soldiers’ food. The supplier said there was a technical error and no money changed hands.
David Arakamia, head of Zelensky’s People’s Service Party, said officials should “focus on the war, help the victims, cut bureaucracy and stop dubious business.”
“We’re definitely going to be aggressive in jailing this spring. If the humanitarian approach doesn’t work, we’ll do it under martial law,” he said.
‘Spring will be decisive’
On the battlefield, the front lines have been largely frozen for two months, despite heavy losses on both sides.
Ukraine says Western tanks will give its ground forces the firepower to break through Russian defense lines and resume their advance. But Western allies, wary of moves to escalate Moscow, could not agree on arming Kiev with tanks.
Berlin, which needs to approve the leopard’s re-export, has said it is ready to act soon if there is consensus among allies.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, which borders Ukraine, said Warsaw would seek permission to send Panther tanks to Kiev and try to get others on board.
Germany has not blocked the re-export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the EU’s top diplomat said on Monday.
US lawmakers have pressed their government to export M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, saying even a code number would prompt European allies to do the same.
Britain has said it will supply 14 Challenger 2 tanks. French President Emmanuel Macron said he did not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks.
Moscow tried to apply its own pressure.
“All countries directly or indirectly participating in the flow of weapons into Ukraine must take responsibility for continuing the conflict and raising its technological level,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Both Ukraine and Russia are believed to be planning spring offensives to break the stalemate that has turned into a war in eastern and southern Ukraine.
“If the major Russian offensive planned at this time fails, it will be the doom of Russia and Putin,” Vadim Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told news site Delphi in an interview.
One person was killed and two others were wounded in Russian shelling on a residential district of Chasiv Yar on Monday, which damaged at least nine high-rise buildings, the governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kirilenko, said in a Telegram.
“The Russians are deliberately terrorizing and killing civilians. They will pay dearly for this,” he said.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
‘Working against the West’
In the 11 months since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has shifted its rhetoric of war from a move to “denazify” and “militarize” its neighbor to one of defense against an aggressive West. Kiev and its Western allies call it an unprovoked act of aggression.
On Monday, the new general in charge of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine warned that modern Russia had never seen such “intensity of military hostility” that forced it to take offensive action.
“Our country and its armed forces are working against the entire West today,” Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov told the news website Argumenty i Fakty.
The military reforms announced in mid-January could be adjusted in response to threats to Russia’s security, including Sweden and Finland’s aspirations to join NATO and “using Ukraine as a tool to wage a hybrid war against our country,” he said.
Ukraine imposed sanctions on 22 Russians associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, which President Zelensky said supported genocide under the guise of religion.
Report by Reuters Bureaus; By Kostas Pitas and Himani Sarkar; Editing by Stephen Coates
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