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$39 million meant for ammo stolen by Ukrainian officials, authorities say

President Joe Biden visits Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 20, 2023. (The White House/Released)
January 29, 2024

Ukrainian counterintelligence agencies recently reported that multiple Ukrainian officials stole $39 million that was intended to be used for the purchase of military ammunition in a major embezzlement scheme.

A statement released Thursday by the Security Service of Ukraine announced that the country’s counterintelligence agencies discovered the embezzlement scheme in December and that a “directorate head” in Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense had been arrested.

“The SSU, together with the Prosecutor General’s Office and in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, prevented embezzlement of state funds allocated for purchase of artillery shells for the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the Security Service of Ukraine wrote. “As a result of the operation, almost UAH 1.5 bln (USD 39 mln) were returned to the state budget after they had been illegally transferred abroad during purchase of a wholesale batch of ammunition.”

The Security Service of Ukraine noted that the embezzlement scheme involved the illegal transfer of roughly UAH 1.5 billion, approximately $39 million, that was intended to be used for the purchase of artillery shells for Ukraine’s Armed Forces. According to the Security Service of Ukraine, the embezzled funds were from Ukraine’s state funds, not from foreign aid provided to Ukraine by the United States and other countries.

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The Security Service of Ukraine noted that multiple individuals were arrested and could face up to 15 years in prison. The agency also noted that the investigation is still ongoing.

According to The Washington Post, the embezzlement scheme occurred under former Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who was removed from his position last year due to multiple allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Defense. However, Reznikov was not directly linked to the $39 million embezzlement scheme in the Security Service of Ukraine’s report.

The individuals allegedly involved in the embezzlement scheme include Yuriy Zbitnev, the head of Lviv Arsenal; Oleksandr Liev, who served as the head of the Department of Military-Technical Policy, Development of Weapons, and Military Equipment of the Ministry of Defense; and Toomas Nakhkur, a Ministry of Defense official.