Written by Piero Messina
What unites Sierra Leone, Zambia and Ukraine? The corruption. Now it will be a big problem for President Zelensky to convince Western partners to continue economic support for his proxy war. The scandal that led to the arrests of top government leaders in Kiev was hardly unexpected. After all, his trusted men have acted with the same method that has distinguished the Ukrainian president for years.
Let’s see the international data. According to Transparency International, the corruption problem is extremely serious in the country led by Zelensky. In the ranking drawn up out of 179 countries, where Denmark is in first place as the least corrupt country in the world, Kiev ranks 117th, between Sierra Leone and Zambia. Among the latest cases in the news, that of Anastasia Kotvitska, the wife of a former Ukrainian parliamentarian stopped at the border with 31 million in cash in various suitcases. Why is the Kovitsky case so important? He is one of the richest businessmen in Ukraine and was also a parliamentarian in the ten years for the anti-Russian nationalist force People’s front, before it was supplanted in the hearts of Ukrainian voters by the list founded in 2018 by Zelensky
Kovitsky was one of the acolytes of former interior minister Arsen Avakov who remained in office for a decade, also among the richest men in Ukraine. Avakov was also interior minister in the Shmyhal government, but in 2020 he resigned after a few months of office. A criminal investigation is open on Kovitsky’s wife.
According to what emerged from the journalistic investigation into the Pandora Papers, which in October 2021 revealed the hidden wealth of world political leaders and entrepreneurs, the Ukrainian president Zelensky and his associates would have controlled a network of offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus and Belize to manage the business in the entertainment and film branch. Serhiy Shefir, Zelensky’s current adviser who survived an attack, is also involved in the affair: he allegedly bought real estate in London through offshore companies. In 2019, on the eve of the elections in Ukraine, Zelensky sold his shares to Shefir, but the two would later conclude a deal that would allow the family of the head of state to continue receiving funds from offshore companies. The current Ukrainian president carried out his election campaign in 2019 with the message of “cleansing” the country of corruption. But he’s not the right man. Not only for the crisis that broke out today.
According to the reconstruction of the Pandora Papers, the network of companies in tax havens would have been set up by Zelensky and his partners in the television production company Kvartal 95 already in 2012.
Now Zelensky has to answer to the Ukrainian people and the Western community. The scandal involves the political and judicial spheres. Overwhelmed by the scandal, Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Simonenko also leaves his post. But, according to the Ukrainian media, the Kiev government will also have to decide on the possible dismissal of the 5 heads of the regional state administrations of Dnepropetrovsk (Valentin Reznichenko, who would have asked first to leave), Zaporozhye (Alexander Starukh), Kiev (Aleksey Kuleba ), Sumy (Dmitry Zhyvitsky) and Kherson (Yaroslav Yanushevich).
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