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Governor distances himself from businessman implicated in Defense Ministry corruption scandal

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 9, 2024 1:59 PM 2 min read
From left to right, Yurii Kholod, Chairman of the Lviv Regional Council, businessman Ihor Hrynkevych, and Lviv Oblast Governor Maksym Kozytskyi in an undated photo reposted on Jan. 9. (Maksym Kozytskyi/Facebook)
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Maksym Kozytskyi, the governor of Lviv Oblast, publicly distanced himself on Jan. 9 from businessman Ihor Hrynkevych, who is under investigation for a corruption scheme involving Ukraine's Defense Ministry.

Hrynkevych was arrested on Dec. 30 after reportedly attempting to bribe a top official from the State Bureau of Investigation (DBR). The DBR said he offered $500,000 to the official in question in exchange for the return of property confiscated as part of the criminal probe.

Hrynkevych's companies are accused of failing to complete Defense Ministry contracts, instead funneling Hr 1.2 billion ($31.6 million) into the businessman's own coffers. He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.

Deputy Defense Minister Vitalii Polovenko said at a press conference on Jan. 9 that the ministry had terminated all contracts with Hrynkevych's companies in light of the criminal investigations.

After photos circulated showing Hrynkevych and Kozytskyi posing while signing a memorandum, Kozytskyi acknowledged he met with the businessman on several occasions but has no "connection with (his) possible illegal activity."

The meetings related to HOPE.UA, a charitable organization run by Hrynkevych. Kozytskyi said that HOPE.UA is a well-known charity that is not currently the subject of suspicion.

He categorically denied that he introduced Hrynkevych to other Ukrainian ministries or promoted his companies.

"If Hrynkevych and the people he cooperated with are guilty....they have to bear the harshest possible punishment by law," Kozytskyi added.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry has seen several high-profile scandals involving procurement since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

Two major corruption scandals preceded the ousting of previous Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, one regarding inflated prices for food supplies and the other connected to low-quality winter jackets.

When introducing incumbent Defense Minister Rustem Umerov as Reznikov's successor in September 2023, President Volodymyr Zelensky named increased transparency in defense procurement as one of the new minister's key tasks.

Umerov said on Jan. 8 that internal audits and investigations at the ministry over the past four months have uncovered more than Hr 10 billion ($260 million) in violations committed previously.

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