Ukraine raids home of billionaire in war-time anti-corruption crackdown

  • Security services carry out massive raids ahead of EU summit
  • Homes of billionaire, former interior minster searched
  • New US weapons nearly double Ukraine’s range
  • Ukrainian soldiers fighting Russian forces in Bakhmut said

KYIV, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Security services raided the home of one of Ukraine’s most prominent billionaires on Wednesday, against a figure once seen as a sponsor of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in what authorities called a war-time anti -corruption purge.

The action, days before a summit with the European Union, appears to reflect Kyiv’s determination to show it can be a steward of billions of dollars in Western aid and shed a reputation as one of the most corrupt. state in the world.

It comes as Kyiv has received major promises of weapons from the West in recent weeks that offer new capabilities – the latest expected this week will include rockets from the United States that will nearly double the range of firing by Ukrainian forces.

Photos circulating on social media appear to show Ihor Kolomoiskiy wearing a sweatsuit and looking into the presence of an SBU security service officer at his home.

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The SBU said it had uncovered embezzlement of more than $1 billion at Ukraine’s largest oil company, Ukrnafta, and its largest refiner, Ukrtatnafta. Kolomoiskiy, who has long denied wrongdoing, once held stakes in the same companies, which Zelenskiy ordered seized by the state in November under martial law.

Separate raids were carried out at the tax office, and at the home of Arsen Avakov, who headed Ukraine’s police force as interior minister from 2014-2021. The SBU said it was cracking down on “people whose actions harm state security in various fields” and promised more details in the coming days.

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“Every criminal who has the courage to harm Ukraine, especially in war conditions, should clearly understand that we will put handcuffs on his hands,” the head of the security service of Ukraine Vasyl Malyuk was quoted as saying on the SBU Telegram channel.

The prosecutor general’s office said that the top management of Ukrtatnafta was notified that it was under suspicion, as were a former energy minister, a former deputy defense minister and other officials.

Kolomoiskiy, who faces fraud charges in the United States, has been at the center of corruption allegations and court disputes for years that Western donors say must be resolved for Kyiv to win aid.

Zelenskiy, who first rose to fame as the star of a sitcom on the Kolomoiskiy TV station, has long pledged to rid Ukraine of so-called oligarchs, but faces accusations that he has failed to act decisively against his former sponsor.

In a speech overnight before the raids, he mentioned new anti-corruption measures in time for Friday’s summit, where Ukraine is expected to demand firm steps towards joining the EU.

“We are preparing new reforms in Ukraine. Reforms that will change the social, legal and political reality in many ways, making it more humane, transparent and effective,” he said, promising to reveal the details soon. period.

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Ukrainian forces that recaptured parts of the territory from Russian troops in the second half of 2022 have seen their early stall since November. Kyiv says the key to retaking the initiative is securing the West’s advanced weaponry.

Two US officials said a new $2 billion military aid package to be announced as soon as this week will for the first time include Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), a new weapon designed by Boeing. (BA.N)

The low-cost gliding missiles can hit targets more than 150 km (90 miles) away, a dramatic increase over the 80 km range of the rockets fired by the HIMARS systems that changed the face of war when they were deployed. of Washington last summer.

It would put all Russian-held territory in mainland Ukraine, as well as parts of the Crimean peninsula seized by Moscow in 2014, within the reach of Kyiv’s forces.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the arrival of longer-range US weapons would escalate the conflict.

Western countries pledged several advanced main battle tanks for the first time last week, a breakthrough in support aimed at giving Kyiv the ability to retake occupied territory this year.

But the arrival of new weapons was still a few months away, and in the meantime, Russia gained momentum on the battlefield, announcing an advance north and south of the city of Bakhmut, its main target for months.

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Kyiv disputes many of those claims and Reuters could not independently verify the full situation, but the locations of the reported fighting clearly indicate incremental Russian advances.

Troops are fighting to build on the building in Bakhmut for gains of about 100 meters (yards) overnight, and the city is under constant Russian attack, a soldier in a Ukrainian unit of the Belarusian volunteer to Reuters from inside the city.

Ukraine’s general staff said on Tuesday that its forces were attacked in Bakhmut and the villages of Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka in its southern suburbs.

South of Bakhmut, Russia also launched a major new offensive this week on Vuhledar, a long-held Ukrainian bastion at the junction of the southern and eastern front lines. Kyiv says its forces remain there.


The infusion of Western military and financial aid is creating new pressure on Zelenskiy to show his government can clean up Ukraine.

Last week, he purged more than a dozen senior officials following a series of scandals and graft allegations in the biggest shakeup of Ukraine’s leadership since the invasion.

Following Wednesday’s raids, the parliamentary leader of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, David Arakhamia, wrote on Telegram: “The country will change during the war. If a person is not ready for change, if then the state itself will come and help them change.”

Reporting by Reuters bureaux Writing by Peter Graff Editing by Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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