KYIV: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said in a television interview shared on his Telegram channel on Sunday that he would ask parliament in the coming week to increase penalties for those found guilty of corruption during wartime.
“I have set a task for the legislation and the Ukrainian legislators will be offered my proposals to equate corruption with high treason in wartime,” he said.
“I think the parliament will get it in the next week and then the ball is in the parliament’s court,” he added.
Zelensky, who says ending graft is key to defeating Russia, also hopes that by fighting corruption he will make it easier for partners to support rebuilding efforts that will cost billions of dollars.
A series of government shake-ups over corruption included Zelensky’s dismissal this month of all the regional military recruitment chiefs after a nationwide audit.
Ukraine ranks 116th out of 180 countries on campaign group Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.
“We are fast approaching the point where it will be us or them,” deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram app on Sunday. External and internal factors meant the state’s survival was beginning to depend on Ukraine’s ability to “really destroy the corrupt as a social group,” she said.
Zelensky said those found guilty must face justice. “But this is not a firing squad. This is not Stalinism,” he said. “If there is evidence, the person must be behind bars.”