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Zelenky cleans house, sacks 6 ministers over graft as war rages on

Zelenky has fired wartime colleagues before departing to US for UNGA conference.

Two weeks after replacing its defense minister, Ukraine dismissed all six of its deputy ministers on Monday, deepening the housecleaning at a ministry that had drawn criticism for corruption in procurement as the military budget ballooned during the war, a report in the New York Times said.

The shake-up in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wartime leadership team came as he headed to the United States, keen to demonstrate to American officials and other Western leaders that his government is not squandering — on either graft or mismanagement — the tens of billions of dollars in aid they have sent to Ukraine.

Zelensky is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly in person on Tuesday in New York, and later in the week to meet with President Biden and members of Congress in Washington in his ongoing efforts to shore up support for military aid. He is expected to argue that defending Europe’s borders from an expansionist Russia in Ukraine serves Western interests in preventing a wider war and the destabilisation of the European Union.

In Ukraine’s fight to take back territory seized by the Russian invasion, the chain of command for battlefield decisions runs directly from Zelensky to the military’s uniformed general staff, largely bypassing the civilians at the defense ministry, so the turnover is not expected to have an immediate effect on the course of the war. The ministry’s role is primarily not in tactics but logistics — procurement, salaries and benefits — where changes may not be felt right away.

Even so, some US critics of spending on Ukraine — notably a faction of Republicans in Congress — have said that reports of corruption were a reason to place stricter limits on military aid, and some members of NATO are nervous that weapons could be illicitly rerouted from their intended purpose.

The decision to dismiss the deputies was made at a cabinet meeting, according to a Ukrainian government statement posted on the Telegram messaging app on Monday. The government did not give a reason for the move.