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Ukraine's government dismissed several officials, possibly to address corruption

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Ukraine's government dismissed several deputy ministers and regional administrators today. The move is seen as a response to allegations of corruption and misuse of power. Ukraine struggled with graft before the war, and there has been increased scrutiny on transparency in the last year, as the West sends Ukraine billions of dollars in military and other aid. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Kyiv.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Seventy-year-old Anatoliy Yukhymovych is shopping for groceries in central Kyiv and says he spent his life hearing about corrupt politicians. He has a cynical view of this government shakeup. He rolls his eyes and explains.

ANATOLIY YUKHYMOVYCH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: "For 30 years, our leaders would steal, steal, steal," he says. "Only the faces changed."

For example, he says he's embarrassed that Ukraine needs to ask for tanks or ammunition during this war.

YUKHYMOVYCH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: "Give me this, give me that," he says. "Is this normal?"

YUKHYMOVYCH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: But others say this version of Ukraine - the country where graft is endemic - is moving to the past.

TYMOFIY MYLOVANOV: We're changing. There is a culture shift. We are - we meet the challenge heads-on. We're fixing it, you know?

KAKISSIS: That's Tymofiy Mylovanov, the president of the Kyiv School of Economics. He praises the government for acting quickly after allegations of impropriety.

MYLOVANOV: It's very, very important that accusations have been specific, and the responses have been specific.

KAKISSIS: For example, he says, the deputy in the general prosecutor's office was dismissed for vacationing in Spain at a time when men of fighting age are barred from leaving the country. And the deputy minister of defense resigned after a Ukrainian journalist revealed that the ministry purchased food for soldiers that, in some cases, cost up to three times higher than supermarket goods.

MYLOVANOV: It resembles to me much more the Western - you know, like, good state democracy, developed democracy, where people resign to preserve the integrity of the minister of defense.

KAKISSIS: The scandal prompted Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov to promise that his ministry would completely revamp its procurement process in the coming months. Vitaliy Shabunin of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, which is also investigating the procurement scandal, says Reznikov took too long to react. By contrast, he says, the minister of infrastructure fired his deputy immediately after allegations of bribery emerged.

VITALIY SHABUNIN: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: "This is the right reaction," Shabunin says, "and shows to the public that the government is ready to fight corruption."

That's important to Western leaders who have donated billions in aid to Ukraine over the last year. The European Union, which Ukraine hopes to join one day, praised President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government for taking corruption allegations seriously.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: In his nightly address of the public, Zelenskyy promised more shake-ups would come this week. Back at the market, Yevheniy Martsyniuk, a young engineer, is waiting for a friend while puffing on a cigarette.

YEVHENIY MARTSYNIUK: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: "It will be decades before we know what happened behind the scenes here," he says, "but I'll support the government no matter what. The Russians have their propaganda and we have ours."

Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Kyiv.

(SOUNDBITE OF CURREN$Y AND STATIK SELEKTAH SONG, "GRAN TURISMO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis
Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.