A number of senior Ukrainian officials resigned or was fired on January 24, as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pledged to root out corruption from his administration amid a high-profile corruption scandal that threatens to erode hitherto unwavering Western support for Kyiv’s leadership.
The tremors came as at least three civilians were killed amid heavy and continuous fighting in the east, where Ukrainian forces are facing indiscriminate Russian shelling “around the clock”.
Early on January 24, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, announced on January 24 that he had tendered his resignation to Zelensky.
Live briefing: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
RFE/RL Live briefing gives you all the latest developments on the ongoing invasion of Russia, the Kyiv counter-offensive, Western military aid, the global response and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.
“I thank Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute,” Tymoshenko wrote on the Telegram message, adding, “Thank you to the armed forces for saving and defending our country “.
Shortly after Tymoshenko’s announcement, Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who was responsible for supplying the troops with food and equipment, also resignedciting “media accusations” of corruption.
A statement on the Defense Ministry website said Shapovalov’s resignation was “a dignified act” that would help maintain confidence in the ministry.
Also on January 24, Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko was fired in what the prosecutor general’s office called an upheaval of senior officials.
A statement announcing his dismissal gave no reason for the decision but said it had been “according to his own wish”.
The departures of the three officials came after Zelenskiy announced late on January 23 that he would make personnel changes at the top and bottom levels, following the most high-profile corruption scandal to engulf Ukraine since Israel. invasion of Russia.
“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – affecting civil servants at different levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in regions and in law enforcement” , Zelenskiy said in his evening speech.
The corruption scandal erupted on January 22, when the Ministry of Defense was accused by an investigative newspaper of overpaying suppliers for troop food. The provider said a technical error was to blame and no extra money was paid. The ministry said the charges were baseless.
On the same day, Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister was arrested on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 bribe for importing generators in September, an allegation he deny.
The scandal comes as European allies vie to give Ukraine German-made Leopard 2 tanks that Kyiv says it needs to break through Russian lines and retake territory.
Germany was initially reluctant to supply such tanks to Kyiv itself or to allow third countries with Leopard tanks to send them to Ukraine.
But Berlin has come under intense pressure from Ukraine and several NATO allies to change its position and allow the Leopards to be exported.
On January 22, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not oppose Poland if it chose to apply for a re-export permit, while on January 23 Germany’s foreign policy chief European Union, Josep Borrell, said Germany was not blocking the export of the tanks.
“My understanding is that Germany is not going to ban the export of these weapons if any EU country that has them wishes to do so,” he said.
On January 23, German defense group Rheinmetall said it could deliver 139 Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine if needed.
Rheinmetall said it could deliver 29 Leopard 2A4 tanks by April or May and another 22 of the same model later this year or early 2024.
It could also supply 88 older Leopard 1 tanks, a Rheinmetall spokesman said, without offering a delivery timeframe.
On the battlefield, the Ukrainian General Staff stated in its January 24 report that it repelled Russian attacks in 11 localities of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, enemy fire concentrated mainly in the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka directions, where heavy fighting has been going on for months.
The head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said that three people were killed and three were injured by Russian shelling.
“On January 23, the Russians killed three residents of the Donetsk region: in Novopokrovskiy, Paraskoviyivka and Chasovoy Yar,” Kyrylenko said.
Russian forces also continued to shell Ukrainian positions in Zaporizhzhya, Kherson and Lyman, the General Staff said.
The front lines have remained virtually unchanged for two months despite heavy casualties on both sides and incessant Russian shelling.
“Enemy shelling and attacks are happening around the clock,” Zelenskiy said in his Jan. 23 nightly video message.
“But the battle for Donbass continues. And the battle for the south continues. We see how Russia gathers its forces and we know how to react,” he added.