By Burc Eruygur
ISTANBUL (AA) - Ukrainian authorities conducted raids Wednesday against former and current officials, and an oligarch, amid a recent crackdown regarding claims of corruption in the government.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in a statement on Telegram that it exposed large-scale embezzlement schemes of 40 billion Ukrainian hryvnias ($1 billion) by the former management of the Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta oil companies.
“It was established that illegal mechanisms were combined with tax evasion and legalization of funds obtained through criminal means,” it said.
The statement said a series of searches were carried out at the residences of the owners and top management of the two companies, including the house of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, according to the online newspaper, Ukrainska Pravda.
The SBU also found the head of the Motor Sich company, Vyacheslav Bohuslayev, to have financed Russian separatists in the Donetsk region through “the payment of ‘taxes’ and ‘fees.’”
“Among other things, he cooperated with a Ukrainian company,” it said. “Its purpose was to supply aircraft components to enterprises of the military-industrial complex of the Russian Federation.”
The statement said it gave Bohuslayev a new notice of charges under the Ukrainian criminal code based on the findings of the probe.
Motor Sich was one of five “strategically important” companies whose stakes were taken control of under wartime laws invoked in November by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Separately, Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation (DBR), said it conducted a raid against former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov in connection with the purchase of helicopters in 2018, according to state news agency, Ukrinform.
Avakov confirmed the raid, noting it was completed and contracts were approved by the government and parliament. “They led correctly, even if it was senseless,” he said.
The DBR also searched former Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Ihor Nasalyk, who is said to be charged with signing 1.5 billion Ukrainian hryvnias ($40.6 million) worth of contracts that were “unprofitable to the state,” Ukrinform reported.
Other notable individuals raided include Vadym Stolar, a member of the pro-Russian political party opposition platform, For Life, which was banned in June, and the head of the Tax Service of Kyiv, Oksana Datii.
The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers relieved three deputies -- Yuriy Sotnyk, Oleksandr Shchutskyi and Andrii Lordkipanidze -- of duties in state services involving forest resources, state customs and food security, respectively.
The head of the SBU, Vasyl Malyuk, said the raids are part of tasks set by Zelenskyy and by doing so, authorities are simultaneously “delivering a global blow to the internal enemy.”
Ukrainian officials either stepped down or were relieved of duties Jan. 24 after Zelenskyy declared, a day earlier, that he would reshuffle officials at various levels in ministries, central and local administrative bodies, as well as law enforcement, to build “a strong state.”
Zelenskyy hinted at another possible wave of personnel decisions during a video address late Tuesday.
"There will be decisions. Those in the system who do not meet the fundamental requirements of the state and society should not linger in their chairs," he said.