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Friday, February 23, 2024

Zelensky and team stole at least $400 million of US aid – Seymour Hersh

Corruption in Ukraine may be on par with what was seen in Afghanistan, the investigative journalist claimed

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his senior officials are skimming American taxpayer dollars by the hundreds of millions, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed on Wednesday. The alleged grift even includes schemes involving trade with Russia itself.

Zelensky and his entourage embezzled at least $400 million from US funds meant for diesel procurement last year, Hersh claimed in a new article on Substack, citing a CIA estimate.

Read more: US explains military presence in Ukraine

Kiev has allegedly been buying diesel fuel, which is essential for the war effort, from Russia itself – and in the process skimming large sums of US funds earmarked for diesel payments.

Reports had earlier surfaced about how oil products originating in Russia had made their way to Ukraine through Bulgaria and Latvia. The scheme involving the Baltic state, which was reported in detail by the Latvian television program Neka Personiga, may have violated the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions.

An expert cited by Hersh compared the level of corruption in Ukrainian procurement to what was seen in Afghanistan, when a US-backed government was in charge in Kabul. According to his sources, ministries in Kiev compete to set up front firms in order to export weapons and ammunition, with the relevant officials profiting from kickbacks. The US government, meanwhile, has stated that it has seen no evidence of Western-supplied weapons in Ukraine being diverted elsewhere.

Read more: West in no position to lecture China on Ukraine — Ambassador

Hersh cited an intelligence source who referred to the January meeting between Zelensky and CIA Director William Burns. The US official allegedly presented a list of 35 generals and ministers known to the CIA to be corrupt. Senior Ukrainian officials also complained that Zelensky “was taking a larger share of the skim money than was going to the generals,” the source explained, comparing the meeting to a scene from a 1950s mob movie.

Hersh contends that the Ukrainian leader’s response was to fire staff from the Cabinet of Ministers, regional administrations, and other parts of the Ukrainian government. Kiev claimed the move was part of its anti-corruption strategy. Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov, who became mired in a scandal over purchases of overpriced food for troops, was widely expected to be sacked at the time, but he survived the purge.