By Michael Walsh
As brazenly corrupt officials and oligarchs in Ukraine continue to embezzle and squander the endless piles of cash and weaponry funneled to them from the West, a top defense official in Zelensky’s regime has openly admitted that what’s taking place in Eastern Europe is a third world war.
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Hardly had the ink dried on the appointment of Kiev’s newly appointed minister of defense than an investigation into his alleged sleaze was launched by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).
Several corruption scandals rocked the Defense Ministry under the recently replaced Oleksii Reznikov’s leadership, though the man himself had defied multiple predictions of an imminent sacking.
The choice of Rustem Umerov, 41, an Uzbek-born former head of the State Property Fund (SPF), was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Ukrainian parliament.
Umerov, an ethnic Tatar and Muslim oligarch, was touted by domestic media as a safe pick as the president seeks to convince Kiev’s foreign sponsors of the sincerity of his pledges to eradicate graft by officials.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova immediately exposed the problems in the choosing of Umerov. “Zelensky removed Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov because of corruption, without initiating any investigation, and instead appointed another, against whom anti-corruption proceedings are underway,” Zakharova pointed out.
Corruption in Ukraine is widespread. Two officials in the defense ministry, a deputy minister and the head of procurement, were arrested over reports of the purchase of overpriced eggs for the army. About $980 million in weapons contracts missed their delivery dates. And some prepayments for weapons vanished into overseas accounts of weapons dealers, according to reports made to Parliament.
Irregularities suggest that procurement officials failed to vet suppliers or allowed weapons dealers to walk off with money without delivering the armaments. Ukrainian media reports have pointed to overpayments for basic supplies for the army, such as food and winter coats.
The arrest this past weekend of Ihor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, was seen as a sign of the drive to curb the political influence of the oligarchs running Ukraine. Suspected of fraud and money laundering, Kolomoisky mentored Zelensky and financed his 2019 election campaign.
In other crackdowns this year, investigators pursued their highest-profile prosecution ever for bribery against the chief of Ukraine’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a deputy economy minister is on trial, accused of embezzling humanitarian aid funds.
President Zelensky fired the heads of military recruitment offices last month after allegations emerged that some took bribes from tens of thousands of men and women seeking to avoid the draft.
With more than $100 billion in U.S. weaponry and financial aid flowing to Ukraine in less than a year and more on the way, concerns about arms falling into terrorists’ hands and dollars into corrupt officials’ pockets are mounting.
The U.S. special inspector general who supervised aid to Afghanistan since 2012, along with some House Republicans, warn of the need for closer oversight of the military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The scale of the effort is huge. The $113 billion appropriated by Congress in 2022 is fast approaching the $146 billion spent in 20 years for military and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
The costs of aid to Ukraine were criticized by the independent member of the Bundestag Sarah Wagenknecht.
“Ukraine is increasingly becoming a bottomless pit for taxpayers in Germany and Europe,” Wagenknecht said recently. “There seems to be no limit to assistance to Ukraine, most of which is weapons.”
Former U.S. military intelligence officer Tony Shaffer is likewise pointing out the obvious.
“The U.S. is sending more and more money to Ukraine, the most corrupt country in Europe,” Shaffer recently stated. “Yet, we can no longer account for previously sent funds. We already know that they allegedly fire people for corruption, and then you want to give them more money? Obviously, this looks more like fraud and bribery from the Biden administration to those there.”
Ukraine ranks 116th out of 180 nations on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. On Feb. 14, the defense minister named new deputies after news reports showed officials in the ministry had bought food, uniforms, and other supplies for troops at inflated prices.
Official corruption was a taboo topic throughout the first year of the war as patriotic Ukrainians rallied around their government. But Zelensky’s announcement that he was replacing Reznikov elevated the issue to the highest level of Ukrainian politics.
Charges of chronic corruption come at a pivotal moment as Ukraine continues its much-ballyhooed counteroffensive in the country’s southeast, a counteroffensive that relies almost entirely on Western sponsors for military and financial assistance.
Kiev’s three-month military initiative has, so far, reportedly cost the lives of 66,000 Ukrainian troops, hundreds of foreign mercenaries, and the loss of 7,600 pieces of heavy weaponry while failing to achieve any significant gains.
Ukraine’s total losses so far are estimated at a staggering 600,000, a macabre figure that surpasses the manpower losses of the U.S. during World War II and Vietnam. Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus highlighted the scale of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying, “I haven’t seen anything like it since WWII.”
These dreadful figures add credibility to the claim by the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council that a third world war is already underway.
Speaking at the Kiev Security Forum, Aleksey Danilov was up front.
“If somebody thinks that World War III hasn’t started then it’s a huge mistake,” Danilov explained. “It has already begun. It had been underway in a hybrid period for some time and has now entered an active phase.”
What many independent analysts have been saying for months is now being openly admitted by leading members of Ukraine’s government. It’s far past time to end the madness in Ukraine and end the looting of the U.S. taxpayer by corrupt oligarchs half a world away.