The top judge on the Ukrainian Supreme Court, Vsevolod Kniaziev, was arrested this week on corruption charges. Kniaziev is suspected of accepting a bribe of $2.7 million, marking the latest act in a string of arrests and investigations within the Zelenskyy administration.
Ukrainian prosecutor Oleksandr Omelchenko stated without naming Kniaziev directly, “At this time, the head of the supreme court has been detained and measures are being taken to check other individuals for involvement in criminal activity.” The National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that no one, even those wielding great power, would be exempt from scrutiny.
BREAKING: Vsevolod Kniaziev, the chief justice of Ukraine's Supreme Court, has been detained for allegedly accepting a $2.7 million bribe. pic.twitter.com/26jVkxzzL9
— Archangel (@deplora80055754) May 16, 2023
The alleged bribe is believed to be a “reward” for a ruling favoring the Finance and Credit group, controlled by mining mogul Kostyantyn Zhevago. Yet, Zhevago, currently engaged in an extradition battle from France, has categorically denied involvement in the bribery scheme.
Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts have been in the spotlight as it aims to shed its image of endemic corruption and align itself with Western norms and values, a necessary step towards its ambition to join the European Union. However, the troubled nation likely must focus first on setting itself on a trajectory of transparency and honest government.
The corruption crackdown is a significant development, not limited to pro-Russian factions. Analysis indicates that some groups and persons being probed were classified as “anti-Liberal” or skeptical of the EU. Nevertheless, the investigations suggest that Zelenskyy’s administration is taking steps to eliminate corruption, irrespective of political allegiance.
At the same time, it’s clear that the war with Russia is factoring into Ukraine’s political landscape. The country has been purging officials and political parties since the conflict’s inception, drawing a firm line in the sand against corruption and Russian influence.
Meanwhile, the top Ukrainian court has removed Kniaziev from his post, with a new chief justice expected to be appointed soon. However, it’s not just Kniaziev who’s caught up in the crosshairs. In another recent move, Ukraine’s SBU state security service issued a “notice of suspicion” to oligarch Dmitry Firtash, accusing him of embezzling nearly $500 million worth of natural gas. Firtash has denied the claims, framing them as part of an “ongoing campaign of corrupt pressure.”