Ukraine's defence minister declares 'zelo tolerance' on corruption

Ukrainian Defence Minister Reznikov holds a news conference in Kyiv

By Dan Peleschuk

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's defence minister said on Thursday hundreds of officials at the ministry or in the armed forces had been disciplined last year after internal audits, and that he had "zero tolerance" for corruption.

Oleksii Reznikov's remarks appeared intended to defend his and the ministry's record on fighting corruption following a scandal which forced out one of his deputies and put his own position in doubt.

Reznikov said 621 officials from the armed forces and the ministry had received fines or reprimands for unspecified "violations" in 2022.

"My principled position was, is and will remain unchanged: zero tolerance for any violations," he wrote on Facebook. "All persons whose guilt has been proven by the relevant authorities bear and will bear responsibility."

Reznikov said all relevant materials had been handed over to law enforcement agencies after a deputy resigned last month following a media report that the ministry was buying food at inflated prices.

The deputy and the ministry denied the allegations but said the deputy minister's resignation would help maintain public trust.

Days later, a senior member of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's governing party said Reznikov would be replaced by Ukraine's military intelligence chief, but later rowed back, saying there would be no personnel changes this week.

The likelihood of Reznikov's departure receded further when Zelenskiy called on Tuesday for an end to "rumours or any other pseudo-information" that could undermine unity as Ukraine fights Russian troops that invaded in February last year.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Ukraine's national security chief also played down speculation that Reznikov would be fired but underscored the importance of fighting corruption during the war.

"The fact that this is happening now is extremely uncomfortable and difficult for us," said the official, Oleksiy Danilov. "But we need to have the truth and… if this is confirmed, then the people involved must be held accountable."

Reznikov has also said he will reboot his ministry's anti-corruption department and include experts and civic activists in anti-graft efforts, in addition to other moves aimed at showing transparency.

(Additional reporting by Max Hunder, Editing by Timothy Heritage)