By David Stern
KievMr Plakhuta’s accusations come at a sensitive time for Ukraine’s leaders. In European capitals “Ukraine fatigue” has been growing, due in part to what is seen as Kiev’s lack of significant movement on reform.
Ukrainian officials are on the defensive after an open electronic database for their assets revealed astonishing levels of wealth – millions of dollars in cash in safety deposit boxes, vast collections of jewellery and watches, and multiple homes and tracts of real estate.
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And now Mr Plakhuta and other reformers are focusing on the defence industry. If they are right, and top officials are indeed illegally enriching themselves from the war effort, it could seriously damage the credibility of President Petro Poroshenko’s government.
All this comes at a time when Kiev is growing worried that US President-elect Donald Trump might abandon Ukraine in favour of Russia, and the EU is struggling to bring an end to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.The Ukrainian defence ministry has allocated some $500m (£395m) to purchase weapons and equipment next year.
“People need to know how much a Ukrainian tank costs to the budget and how many of them are being sold,” said Oksana Syroyid, the deputy speaker of parliament and an opposition politician.
“I have papers here in this office where I can say that there appears to be corruption. But I’m unable to talk about them,” she says, pointing to filing cabinets in the corner.
Even the definition of sensitive information is unclear. “The criteria for determining what’s a state secret is in itself a state secret,” said one lawyer, knowledgeable of the defence industry, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Nonetheless, those deals known to the public have raised questions.
According to open-source documents, Lenin Forge, a company owned by Mr Poroshenko, has sold military boats to the Ukrainian navy.
Likewise, Bogdan Motors – a company in which Ihor Gladkovsky holds an interest – has sold trucks to the army. Mr Gladkovsky is a business partner of Mr Poroshenko and serves as first deputy secretary of the country’s national security and defence council.
Ukraine’s defence ministry said information about the sale price, or whether a competitive tender was held, was “restricted” and a “state secret”.
Officials at Bogdan Motors said that the company had signed two “minor contracts” with the defence ministry in October last year, but added no more details. Officials at Lenin Forge did not respond to questions.http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38224388
By David Stern