Ukraine promises sweeping reforms amid corruption scandal
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said personnel changes were being carried out at senior and lower levels, following high-profile corruption allegations.
Reports of a fresh scandal in Ukraine, which has a long history of shaky governance, could dampen Western enthusiasm for the Kyiv government.
Over the weekend, anti-corruption police arrested the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of receiving a 367,000 euro kickback over the import of generators last September, an allegation the minister denies.
Separately, a newspaper investigation accused the Defence Ministry of signing off overpriced contracts to supply food to troops on the frontline.
The supplier has claimed this was a mistake and no money had changed hands.
The scandals, which have sent shockwaves through Ukraine, come as European countries bicker over giving Kyiv German-made Leopard 2 tanks – the workhorse of armies across Europe.
Ukraine says it needs them to break through Russian lines and recapture territory, though some European officials have warned their delivery could escalate the conflict.
David Arakhamia, head of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, said officials should “focus on the war, help victims, cut bureaucracy and stop dubious business”.
“We’re definitely going to be jailing actively this spring. If the humane approach doesn’t work, we’ll do it in line with martial law,” he said.
Poland willing to export Leopard 2 tanks without Berlin’s permission
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki restated on Monday that his country could send its stock of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine even without Berlin’s permission.
As a producer of the tanks, Germany has veto power on re-exporting and transferring the armoured vehicles.
But as Berlin waivers on whether to transfer the Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, Morawiecki has suggested creating a “small coalition of countries” which would go ahead with it on its own.
Morawiecki has been particularly vocal in his condemnation of Germany’s reluctance towards sending its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and has previously stated that Berlin’s “consent is a secondary issue”.
The Polish prime minister’s comment on Monday followed a statement by Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbok over the weekend, saying that the country “would not stand in the way” if Poland decided to send its tanks to Ukraine.
She added that Warsaw has not yet made an official request to Berlin for transferring the tanks.
“We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance,” Morawiecki told reporters on Monday.
“Even if we did not get this approval […] we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”.
Moscow downgrades ties with Estonia, accusing it of ‘total Russophobia’
Moscow is downgrading diplomatic relations with NATO member Estonia after accusing Tallinn of “total Russophobia”.
The decision was announced by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which said it was Moscow’s response to Tallinn moving to reduce the size of the Russian embassy.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it has ordered the Estonian envoy to Moscow to leave next month. Both countries will then be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim chargé d’affaires instead of an ambassador.
“The Estonian regime has got what it deserved,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented.
Russia’s Lavrov says Ukraine is rejecting peace talks
During his visit to South Africa on Monday, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that Ukraine is rejecting peace talks, adding that the longer this goes on for, the harder it will be to resolve the conflict.
“The longer they (the Ukrainians) refuse, the harder it will be to find a solution,” Lavrov said during a news conference.
In recent weeks, Moscow has repeated that it’s open to talks with Kyiv, but both Ukraine and the US say they see no signs that Russia would seriously consider negotiating an end to the war. Instead, they suspect Moscow might want to use the time spent on negotiations to regroup its forces hit by a series of defeats last year.
Lavrov’s visit with South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor was met with protests from opposition parties and the small Ukrainian community in the country.
Both foreign ministers defended joint naval drills between Russia, China and South Africa scheduled for next month, with Lavrov saying that Russia didn’t want any scandal and provocations around the military exercises.
Pandor said the drills are part of the “natural course of relations” between the countries.