Ukrainian lawmakers reinstate disclosure rule to fight graft, with a catch


KYIV — Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday voted to reinstate — but postpone by a year — a key anti-corruption rule that would require them to openly disclose their assets, potentially raising new questions about the country’s commitment to fighting graft at the highest levels of government.

Asset disclosures by members of parliament were stopped last year, ostensibly on security grounds, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, parliament voted to reinstate the declarations — which the International Monetary Fund had set as a requirement for disbursing part of a $15.6 billion economic assistance program. But the parliament inserted a delay of another year before the renewed disclosure requirement takes effect.

The move came shortly after parliament voted to dismiss Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who resigned on Monday at President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request. Zelensky’s designation to replace Reznikov was applauded by anti-corruption activists because the defense ministry is enmeshed in corruption allegations.

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, an opposition lawmaker and former head of Transparency International in Ukraine, denounced the move on disclosures. Posting on Facebook, Yurchyshyn called it “a manipulation” and said the goal was “to delay as far as possible the moment when it will be necessary to report on vacations in Dubai” or the purchase of a new house.

Zelensky has taken several steps in recent months to assure Ukraine’s international supporters that he is committed to rooting out public corruption, and to safeguarding the billions in military and economic assistance that have kept the country alive since the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

The replacement of Reznikov appeared to be the latest such move. Although Reznikov has not been charged personally with any wrongdoing, and he has insisted that his departure was not tied to corruption concerns, the defense ministry has been at the center of a number of troubling allegations.

Earlier this year, Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov resigned amid allegations that the military bought food for forces at inflated prices — charges he has denied.

And last month, Ukrainian media outlets reported that the ministry bought jackets for soldiers at a steep markup. Reznikov said the claims were false, and Zelensky did not cite corruption as a reason for replacing him.

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To succeed Reznikov, Zelensky has nominated Rustem Umerov, head of Ukraine’s State Property Fund. Umerov is a prominent representative of the Crimean Tatars, a Turkic-speaking minority group, which has been suppressed politically since Russia’s illegal invasion and annexation of the peninsula in 2014.

Umerov’s appointment, which is expected to be approved this week, is viewed by Ukrainian political insiders as strengthening ties with Turkey, a key ally for Kyiv and frequent intermediary in dealings with Russia.

Umerov’s appointment to such a prominent post, which will require frequent appearances at NATO and in meetings with international supporters led by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, could also make it uncomfortable for senior Western officials to call for any land for peace deal that might require surrendering Crimea.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, but failed to reach an agreement to revive a deal that provided safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea. Turkey and the United Nations originally helped broker the agreement one year ago, but Russian canceled it this summer.

Putin has insisted that Russia is willing to rejoin the grain accord if restrictions on its own food and fertilizer exports are lifted. Erdogan said he believed that “we will reach a solution that will meet expectations in a short time.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Monday that the Black Sea grain initiative “must be restored,” but not “at the expense of blackmail [and] fulfilling the whims” of Russia.

“If we make concessions to them now, they will return, in a month they will withdraw again and will put forward new conditions,” Kuleba said in Kyiv, after Putin and Erdogan’s meeting ended. “This is just classic blackmail.”

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While the politics played out in Kyiv on Tuesday, the fight against the Russian invaders in Ukraine’s southeast continued. Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, said that it tried to “blow up” a former top official in Russian-occupied Luhansk in eastern Ukraine — an attack that Russian officials said was carried out using a cellphone that was rigged with an explosive.

The failed assassination was the latest example of Ukraine’s effort to fight Russia’s invasion using hybrid tactics, away from the front-line military conflict.

Repeated drone strikes on Russian territory are another part of that campaign and Russian officials said on Tuesday that air defenses overnight shot down Ukrainian drones that were “attempting to carry out an attack on Moscow,” as well as on targets in occupied Crimea, which Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014. No casualties or damage was reported, the officials said.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, a top law enforcement agency, said in a social media post that the SBU’s target was the former “head of customs” in the Luhansk People’s Republic — one of the Kremlin’s puppet states in eastern Ukraine that Putin has declared to be annexed and part of Russia, in violation of international law. Media reports identified the ex-official Yury Afanasievsky.

The explosion was triggered via “a mobile phone with an explosive device that was set off after the phone was activated,” which had been passed to Afanasievsky by a woman living in the regional capital city of Luhansk. The woman has been detained, the Investigative Committee said.

Afanasievsky and his son were hospitalized with “multiple injuries” but their lives “were not in danger,” the Investigative Committee said.

However, an SBU official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Afanasievsky had sustained “multiple shrapnel wounds to the head, neck, and abdomen and is in intensive care in critical condition.”

The official confirmed that the SBU carried out the attack, which took place at Afanasievsky’s “residence.”

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One of the drones that Russian officials said they shot down overnight was intercepted near Zavidovo in the Tver region near Moscow, where Putin maintains one of his numerous presidential residences. No damage was reported, however, and it was not clear if the drone was targeting Putin’s home.

Early Monday morning, Russia launched an attack of self-destructing drones against grain facilities near the Black Sea port of Odessa. Over the course of the three-hour attack, air defenses shot down 17 drones, local officials said. “However there were hits,” Odessa’s regional head of administration, Oleh Kiper, said in a social media post.

The attack damaged “several settlements of the Izmail region” — where ports on the Danube river are used to ship Ukrainian grain — damaging warehouses and agricultural machinery and setting buildings on fire, Kiper said. The blazes were extinguished and no casualties were reported, he added.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said two of the Russian drones detonated on the territory of Romania, a NATO member. Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko posted a photo on Facebook allegedly of an explosion on the Romanian side of the river.

However, the Romanian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying, while it “firmly condemned” them as “unjustified” and breaking “all international humanitarian rules,” the drone attacks “did not pose any direct military threats” against Romania.

NATO countries, while supplying an unprecedented amount of weapons and other military support to Ukraine, have been eager to avoid any possibility of direct conflict with Russia.

Serhiy Morgunov in Warsaw and Kamila Hrabchuk in Kyiv contributed to this report.


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