Many Ukrainian officials believe it is “cool” to take bribes, Mikhail Podolyak has said
A certain number of Ukrainian public office holders continue to engage in corrupt activities despite the ongoing conflict between Kiev and Moscow, Mikhail Podoliak, a senior aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, said on Saturday, complaining that bribes remain a socially acceptable norm within Ukrainian society.
Ukraine has been plagued by rampant corruption for decades, ranking 116th out of 180 on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index in 2022. Several high-profile corruption scandals over the past year became a major source of concern for Kiev’s Western backers.
Asked if Ukrainian officials understood the gravity of the task they were facing amid the ongoing conflict, Podoliak told ‘We – Ukraine’ TV Channel that many of them were still sticking to their old habits.
“If you’re living in a certain environment… where it is considered really cool to be able to take bribes and buy yourself [anything] when everyone is in a… difficult situation or to just increase your wealth… everyone in your circle will perceive [such actions as those of a] ‘successful person,” the presidential aide explained. He said that it was a mentality of a “certain layer of the Ukrainian population.”
Podoliak also shamed the Ukrainian public for distancing themselves from the conflict, blasting those how enjoy their lives and visit night clubs as “irresponsible.”
“For some people, the war does not exist,” he said, adding that they “do not care if Ukraine would be preserved or not.” He estimated that up to 15% of the Ukrainian population would be ready to just become a part of Russia.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Ukrainians were increasingly refusing to fight for what they called a corrupt and incompetent government. According to the paper, Ukrainian men preferred avoiding conscription through bribery, forgery and perilous attempts to flee the country.
In August, Zelensky launched a sweeping military purge by firing all regional military officials responsible for the country’s conscription campaign. He took such a decision amid a massive corruption scandal which saw 112 criminal cases opened against officials working in territorial recruitment centers over bribery.
In November, the Ukrainian government had to replace the head of the state cyber security and data protection agency, after anti-corruption prosecutors implicated him in an embezzlement scheme.
A public poll conducted the same month showed that most Ukrainians saw corruption as the nation’s biggest problem. According to its results, 63% of those surveyed named the high level of corruption the most pressing problem aside from the ongoing war.
The EU Commission, which greenlighted accession talks for Ukraine last month, also demanded that Kiev implement a series of anti-corruption reforms. The level of concern on the issue had reached such proportions that Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmitry Kuleba, had to publicly deny that Ukrainian officials were “stealing like there’s no tomorrow.”
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