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Kyiv targets corruption as Poland asks Berlin to approve Ukrainian tanks

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A high-level reshuffle in Ukraine’s government has cost nearly a dozen top civil servants their jobs, as the country’s president on Tuesday sought to root out entrenched corruption while leading the fight against the russian invasion.

The crackdown came as Poland formally asked Germany for permission to transfer a modest number of its Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany is building the high-tech armor and Warsaw needs permission from Berlin to send them to a non-NATO country.

In Kyiv, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office resigned after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged to address allegations of high-level corruption – some of which related to specific wartime spending – that embarrassed authorities and could slow down the country’s attempts to join the European Union and NATO.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko has asked to be removed from office, according to an online copy of a decree signed by Zelenskyy and Tymoshenko’s own social media posts. Neither gave a reason for his resignation.

Deputy Defense Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov also resigned, local media reported, alleging his departure was linked to a scandal involving the purchase of food for Ukraine’s armed forces. Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko also resigned.

A total of four deputy ministers and five regional governors were to leave office, the country’s cabinet secretary said on the Telegram messaging app.

The departures thinned the ranks of the wartime government as Zelenskyy had already lost his interior minister, who oversaw Ukraine’s police and emergency services, and the rest of the ministry’s leadership in a helicopter crash. . Last week.

With Western allies funneling billions of dollars to help Kyiv’s fight against Moscow, Zelenskyy had pledged to root out corruption that some observers have called endemic. Zelenskyy came to power in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform.

Tymoshenko joined the presidential office in 2019, having worked on Zelenskyy’s media and creative content strategy during his presidential campaign.

In his late-night video address on Sunday, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s focus on the Russian invasion would not stop his government from tackling alleged corruption, even in the midst of war.

“I want to be clear: there will be no going back to what was in the past,” Zelenskyy said.

Tymoshenko was investigated last year over his personal use of luxury cars. He was also among officials linked last September by an investigator working with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau to the diversion of humanitarian aid worth more than $7 million destined for the southern region of Zaporizhzhia. He denied all the allegations.

On Sunday, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Infrastructure, Vasyl Lozynsky, was dismissed from his post for being part of a network that allegedly embezzled budget funds.

Oleksandr Kubrakov, the infrastructure minister, said Lozynsky was removed from his post after Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency detained him while he received a $400,000 bribe for having helped repair contracts related to the restoration of facilities battered by Russian missile strikes.

Last June, the EU agreed to put Ukraine on the path to EU membership. To join the bloc, countries must meet a series of detailed economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles.

Ukraine has long aspired to join NATOtoo, but the military alliance is not about to offer an invitation, due to the country’s disputed borders, shortcomings in the defense establishment and, in part, its problems with corruption.

Meanwhile, the delivery of 14 Leopard tanks expected from Poland seemed like a foregone conclusion, with the main unanswered question being when that will happen.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday that Berlin would not seek to prevent Poland from supplying the multipurpose tanks to Kyiv if requested, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that the Poles – and others Western allies he did not identify – are already training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland on the Leopards.

German officials confirmed to the dpa news agency that they had received the Polish request and said it would be assessed “as a matter of urgency”.

Poland is a key EU defender for giving military aid to help Ukraine win 11 months after Kremlin forces invaded. Although Germany has become one of Ukraine’s main arms suppliers, other Western allies – particularly Poland and the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank who feel particularly threatened by Russia – showed impatience with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s perceived slowness to act..

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak called on Germany “to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks” – a reference to recent pressure on Berlin to send some of its own tanks. Germany hesitated to take this step, despite appeals from Ukraine.

“This is our common cause, because it is about the security of all of Europe!” Blaszczak tweeted.

Morawiecki aimed for another political broadside in Berlin.

“I hope the response from the German side will come quickly this time, because the Germans are lingering, dodging, acting in a way that is hard to understand,” Morawiecki said.

He claimed that Germany was unwilling to defend Ukraine more broadly and speculated why this might be: “Does it mean fear, not quite understandable fear or faith that a return to normal relations with Russia is possible?”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called for the rapid delivery of new weapons to Ukraine, where a broad battlefield stalemate is expected to give way to fresh offensives in the spring.

“At this crucial moment in the war, we need to provide Ukraine with heavier and more advanced systems, and we need to do it faster,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday after talks with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius at Berlin.

Polish officials have indicated that Finland and Denmark are ready to join Warsaw in sending Leopards to Ukraine. Poland wants to send a company of 14 tanks, but these would hardly make an impression in a war involving thousands of tanks. If other countries contribute, Warsaw believes, the tank detachment could grow.

In other developments:

Ukraine’s presidential office said on Tuesday that at least five civilians had been killed and seven others injured in Ukraine in the past 24 hours. A Russian rocket hit a school in eastern Ukraine, killing one person, Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Russian forces also shelled nine towns and villages in the northern Sumy region, which borders Russia, hitting a house where a young woman was killed and three other people were injured, local governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy reported on Telegram.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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