Many Ukrainian officials believe it’s “cool” to take bribes, Mikhail Podoliak has said
Many public officials in Ukraine continue to engage in corrupt activities despite the ongoing conflict with Russia, Mikhail Podoliak, a senior aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, said on Saturday, adding that bribes remain a socially acceptable norm in 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 have been a major source of concern for Kiev’s Western backers.
Asked if Ukrainian officials understand the gravity of the situation amid the conflict, Podoliak told ‘We – Ukraine’ TV: “If you’re living in a certain environment… where it is considered really cool to be able to take bribes and buy yourself [anything you want] when everyone else is in a… difficult situation or to just increase your wealth… everyone in your circle will consider [you to be] a ‘successful person,’” the presidential aide explained, arguing that this is the mentality of a “certain layer of the Ukrainian population.”
Podoliak also said there are some who distance themselves from the conflict, accusing people who enjoy their lives and go out to night clubs of being “irresponsible.”
“For some people, the war does not exist,” he said, claiming they “do not care if Ukraine will be preserved or not.” He estimated that up to 15% of the population is prepared to just become part of Russia.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Ukrainians are increasingly refusing to fight for what they consider to be a corrupt and incompetent government. According to the paper, Ukrainian men often attempt to avoid conscription through bribery, forgery, and fleeing the country.
In August, Zelensky launched a sweeping military purge by firing all regional military officials responsible for the country’s conscription campaign. This came in the wake of a massive corruption scandal in which 112 criminal cases were opened against officials in recruitment centers over bribery.
In November, the Ukrainian government replaced the head of the state cyber security and data protection agency, after prosecutors implicated him in an embezzlement scheme.
A poll conducted the same month showed that 63% of Ukrainians believe corruption is the country’s biggest problem apart from the war.
The EU Commission, which greenlighted accession talks for Ukraine last month, also demanded that Kiev implement a series of anti-corruption reforms.
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