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Corruption Has Consequences in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged no tolerance for corruption. Can he keep his promise?

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Jan. 11. YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at fallout from corruption investigations in Ukraine, Germany’s reversal on tanks, and a legal complaint from coup survivors.

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Corruption Investigations Have Consequences in Ukraine

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at fallout from corruption investigations in Ukraine, Germany’s reversal on tanks, and a legal complaint from coup survivors.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Corruption Investigations Have Consequences in Ukraine

Fifteen Ukrainian officials have left their positions since Saturday. Journalists and anti-corruption authorities brought allegations against six of them. Those who have left their posts include front-line governors and even Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office. (Tymoshenko asked to be relieved of his responsibilities.)

Anti-corruption investigators detained Ukraine’s deputy minister of infrastructure, Vasyl Lozinskyi, on Saturday; he was dismissed from his position. Zelensky then vowed a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, after which four other senior officials were dismissed or left, including Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov. Ukraine’s cabinet of ministers announced Tuesday that five regional heads had been dismissed.

Corruption has long been an issue in Ukrainian politics. Frustration with corruption was a key part of the Euromaidan protests almost a decade ago, and Zelensky ran for president in 2019 on an anti-establishment, anti-corruption platform. That so many politicians were ousted so quickly is likely meant to signify that his administration is serious about tackling corruption at a time of war.

That is a message that anti-corruption activists and their allies believe needs to be backed by reality, not only for the war effort and morale but for the country more generally.

Bridget Brink, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said Monday: “There can be no place in the future Ukraine for those who use state resources for their own enrichment. State resources should serve the people.”

“It’s very hard to save the country when there’s a lot of corruption,” Andrii Borovyk, executive director of Transparency International Ukraine, told The Associated Press.


What We’re Following Today 

Germany frees the Leopards. After months of deliberation, Germany has agreed to send tanks, known as Leopard 2s, to Ukraine and to approve third-party requests from countries like Poland to send their own German-made tanks to Ukraine. (Poland reportedly formally requested to send its tanks on Tuesday morning.)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will address lawmakers later today, but a government spokesperson has confirmed that Berlin will send 14 tanks to Ukraine. The United States is also, per the Wall Street Journal, leaning toward sending a “significant” number of its own tanks—the M1 Abrams—to Ukraine. Previously, the German government said it would only send tanks if the United States did the same.

Myanmar coup survivors go to court. Survivors from ethnic groups in different parts of Myanmar have launched a legal complaint against individuals tied to the military of Myanmar. Nongovernmental organization Fortify Rights, together with 16 survivors and witnesses of abuses, filed the criminal complaint with Germany’s federal public prosecutor general. A “structural investigation,” potentially bringing documentation of other allegations, has also been requested.

Finland calls for NATO talks timeout. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has said a timeout is needed in Turkey’s talks with Finland and its Nordic neighbor, Sweden, over joining NATO. Haavisto said demonstrations in Sweden—including one that involved burning a Quran, upsetting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—put a “brake on the progress” of talks. Other hiccups have included the Turkish demand to return those people it deems terrorists from Sweden and Finland to Turkey. Talks appear likely to stall until after Turkish elections in May. Haavisto said he saw no need to rush. This is an apparent reversal from earlier comments that suggested Finland might join the military alliance without Sweden, since Erdogan threatened to block Stockholm’s membership.


Keep an Eye On

Freezing weather turns deadly in Afghanistan. Taliban officials have said at least 124 people have died from freezing temperatures over the past two weeks. Many aid organizations suspended their work after the Taliban banned women from working for nongovernmental organizations. The Taliban have said they will not reverse that decision. “Men are already working with us in the rescue effort, and there is no need for women to work with us. The men from every family are already participating in relief efforts, so theres no need for women,” Mullah Mohammad Abbas Akhund, acting minister of disaster management, told the BBC.

WHO investigating cough syrup. Reuters reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) is looking into “whether there is any connection between manufacturers whose contaminated cough syrups it has linked to the deaths of more than 300 children in three countries.” The WHO reportedly wants more information on the raw materials used by the manufacturers in India and Indonesia that made the cough syrup connected to the deaths and whether those manufacturers have common suppliers. Children in Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan died of acute kidney injury after taking the medicine for common illnesses. Six manufacturers have been identified so far.

Foreign film Oscar nominees. The nominees for the 95th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday. One category is of potential particular interest to readers of this newsletter: Best International Feature Film. The nominees are Argentina’s Argentina, 1985; Belgium’s Close; Poland’s EO; Ireland’s The Quiet Girl; and Germany’s All Quiet on the Western Front, a dramatic exploration of the horrors of World War I, which got an impressive nine nominations overall, including Best Picture.


Tuesday’s Most Read

The World Economy No Longer Needs Russia by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian

Is Cold War Inevitable? by Michael Hirsh

Mao’s Strategy Inspires Afghan Guerrillas and Chinese Planners by Benjamin R. Young


Odds and Ends 

Musk vs. monarch. Twitter is being sued in both London and San Francisco for failing to pay the rent for its office spaces. In Britain, CEO Elon Musk is dealing with an unusually powerful landlord; the case involves the crown estate in London, which is tasked with managing King Charles III’s many properties. Last week, the crown estate filed a claim in the United Kingdom’s high court. It is one of the largest landowners in the U.K. and rental income goes to the treasury, which, in turn, pays the monarchys sovereign grant.

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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