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Senior Ukrainian Defense Ministry Official Arrested for Alleged Embezzlement of $40 Million

In a major development, Ukrainian authorities have arrested a high-ranking official from the Defense Ministry on charges of embezzling approximately $40 million in connection to an artillery shells contract. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) confirmed the detention, revealing that the accused official had signed an agreement with a specialized export company in December of the previous year for a wholesale batch of artillery shells.

However, the SBU claims that a more favorable contract with the same manufacturer, omitting intermediaries, was later executed. This revised agreement significantly reduced both the delivery time and the cost of the products. According to the SBU, the defense official extended the original, more expensive contract, leading to the transfer of 1.5 billion Ukrainian hryvnia (approximately $40 million) to the accounts of an affiliated foreign intermediary firm.

The SBU asserts that it has obtained documentation verifying the illegal activities, and the accused official could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has announced its efforts to recover the embezzled funds.

Head of the Press and Information Department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Illarion Pavliuk, stated that the contract involved payment without actual deliveries. As a result, legal experts are exploring options to terminate the contract and initiate the process of fund recovery.

This incident follows a series of corruption scandals within Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, which led to the dismissal of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov by President Volodymyr Zelensky in September. Rustem Umerov, a former people’s deputy of Ukraine, assumed the position as Reznikov’s replacement.

Additionally, the United States has reportedly been urging Ukraine to intensify efforts to combat governmental corruption. Washington has issued notices to Kyiv, indicating that specific forms of U.S. economic aid will be linked to Ukraine’s progress in instituting reforms. President Zelensky, in response to concerns about corruption, addressed the issue during his visit to Washington DC, where he met with U.S. Senators. The urgency surrounding the corruption matter has heightened further after the European Union agreed to initiate membership talks with Ukraine.