The first Leopard tank arrived in Kyiv in a blizzard of rumours about graft

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 9, 2023
Photo by Jasmine Yu on Unsplash

On February 7, the first German Leopard 2 tank arrived in Kyiv, with another 100 set to follow very soon. Meanwhile, rumours swirled around Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov about his possible replacement following a corruption scandal.

As I’ve previously written, the rumours marked a painful moment in an agonising war. The highs of receiving the promised Leopard tanks – so quickly, much before Russia’s expected large-scale offensive in the next few weeks – were surely balanced by the lows of yet another Ukrainian corruption scandal.

This blog reprises a recent one because the stakes are so high.

Indeed, the stakes are high. A country is fighting for its life; its nuclear-armed neighbour must not be allowed to get away with its brutal unprovoked aggression; might is not right, Vladimir Putin should not be able to massage ego with Ukrainian blood, even as he threatens the planet with a nuclear apocalypse.

And yet, as Estonia’s foreign intelligence service has said in its new annual report, the end is not nigh in this year-old war: “Putin is playing for time, believing that Ukraine and the west will wear out before Russia.”

Quite so. The chances of western weariness are higher every time Ukrainian corruption rises to the top of the news agenda. Reports that its military allegedly secured food at highly inflated prices look bad for Ukraine, for all that these claims have been denied by its defence ministry.

As the top brass, Mr Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, has been dragged into the mess. He is not directly implicated in any wrongdoing but the mere fact that Ukraine was reported to be on the point of reassigning the highest ranking official in its government was concerning. It sounded bizarre for a country forced to engage in an unprovoked war for its life, to decide it will replace its defence minister 12 months into that bloody conflict.

All the rumours reminded us of Ukraine’s reality, before Russia’s brutal invasion. Over the years, reports of Ukrainian corruption were as common as the garden sparrow. Transparency International has ranked Ukraine at 122 out of 180 countries — not much better than Russia.

When he was elected by a landslide in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky boldly vowed to change the way Ukraine was governed. That he has struggled to achieve wholesale reform is hardly surprising — systems are stubbornly resistant to change. And then came the unprovoked Russian invasion of his country. Mr Zelensky could hardly be expected to serve as commander-in-chief of a country at war   and  wage a different, equally brutal war at home.

Unfortunately for Ukraine, it needs to fight on many different fronts and to be seen doing so.

A few other pieces from my Ukraine archive you might want to read (the two at the bottom are from Volodymyr Zelensky’s election) :

The visible effects of Ukraine’s powerful currency – soft power

UN’s impotence on Ukraine underlines the need for real decolonisation – of the international architecture 

What borscht means to Ukraine at this moment

Perils and positives of the proxy war in Ukraine

Zelensky’s ‘camouflage chic’, unrehearsed Churchillian oratory and what victory looks like for Ukraine

Return of the international brigades

Will Ukraine’s president-elect see the funny side of Giuliani’s visit on Trump’s behalf?

Indians once voted for a TV Sita. So, Ukrainians pick a TV president