Zelensky publishes details of income in anti-corruption drive

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly declared details of his income in a bid to reassure allies of Kyiv’s grip on corruption, after military officials were accused of a major embezzlement scheme.

The income of the Ukrainian president declined in 2021 and again in 2022 after Russia launched its full-scale invasion on 24 February, according to his presidential website.

Mr Zelensky’s income fell by 12m Ukrainian hryvnia (£250,000) in 2021 from the previous year as he and his family reported a total income of 10.8m hryvnia (£220,000).

In 2022, the Zelensky family income dropped further to 3.7m hryvnia (£77,000) as he earned less rental income from properties he owns because of the outbreak of the war.

Mr Zelensky disclosed his earnings after Ukraine’s security service uncovered a massive corruption scheme involving arms purchases worth about £32m.

The SBU said that five officials have been charged with embezzling state money – not foreign aid – earmarked to buy 100,000 mortar shells for the war in August 2022.

Corruption in the Ukrainian army has emerged as a major roadblock in Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union as continued financial and military assistance to Kyiv hangs in the balance.

A former comedian and actor, Mr Zelensky entered office in 2019 on the promise of fighting widespread corruption in the country.

Those critical of government funding to Ukraine have raised concerns over its long history of corruption. Western allies and international bodies like the International Monetary Fund have sought assurances on efforts to eliminate corruption while providing billions in financial aid to support the country against Russia’s invasion.

The SBU said its investigation has implicated both current and former high-ranking officials from the defence ministry, as well as managers of the arms supplier Lviv Arsenal. These individuals were entrusted with procuring 100,000 mortar shells for the military, with funds provided in advance in August 2022. Despite the payment, the shells were never delivered.

“After receiving the funds, the company’s management transferred part of the money to the balance sheet of a foreign commercial structure that was supposed to deliver the ordered ammunition to Ukraine,” the statement said. “However, it did not send a single artillery shell to our country, and took the received funds into the shadows, transferring them to the accounts of another affiliated structure in the Balkans.”

The stolen funds have been seized by the government and “the question of their return to the budget of Ukraine is being resolved,” it said.

The fraud happened during the tenure of former defence minister Oleksii Reznikov, who was ousted from his position last year amid various high-profile accusations of corruption within the ministry.

In efforts to increase transparency and rebuild trust, Mr Zelensky has called on all public officials to disclose their incomes regularly.