Forecast for 2023: Ukrainian corruption under the microscope of the West

by Vitaliy Shabunin, originally published by

Corruption in 2023 will be actually a theft of Western money. Will Bankova allow itself to attack the NABU and the SAPO in these conditions?

Next year results of the government in the fight against corruption will be closely watched by the entire Western world. 

Because 60% of the Ukrainian national budget is the support of allies, or rather money of taxpayers of Western countries. During the year, this percentage will increase. And without this money we will lose the war. Everything is very simple. 

Under these conditions, any theft from the budget is actual theft of Western money. To steal from the budget today is to undermine trust not even of the Western elites, but of societies and voters of our partner states. That means the trust that is the key to obtaining weapons and money.

Anyone who steals state money today is internal enemy of the country. And they should be treated accordingly. 

The question is whether they steal? Yes, they are stealing. This can be seen on example of individual procurements. Is it vertically built scheme organized by top political leadership? No, it does not seem so.

It is more likely individual characters who cannot get enough. And it does not matter whether they understand consequences of their actions or do not care about these consequences. Any more or less significant corruption scandal that gets into the global media can be the disaster for us. They will simply stop giving us money.

Zelenskyi understands the catastrophic consequences of any high-profile corruption scandal, so he seems to be restraining “hungry” part of his entourage.

At the same time, neither the President nor the society can guarantee that top officials will not build new schemes during the war. Because we simply do not have the opportunity to check them. 

After February 24, the authorities closed access to key registers, information from which was the basis of all corruption investigations. 

Dishonest judges have not disappeared, but some of their decisions and other important data have started to disappear from the register. In total, more than one million court decisions have already been removed from public access, and new ones are almost never published.

The closed register of declarations hinders even more control over officials. In the first months of the war, the decision to completely cut off access to it probably made sense.

However, is it necessary to hide declarations today? This is the big question. Closed declarations of top officials definitely do not bring our victory closer. After all, we are talking about those who are sitting quietly today on Bankova street and its surroundings, not about regional officials in occupied regions and the military. As for the latter, there should be definitely exceptions, because we simply have no moral right to distract them from what is happening at the front. 

However, declarations were hidden for some reason. MPs allowed themselves and others not to submit them even to the closed register. Because if there are no declarations, there will not be punishment for lying in them. It is convenient, isn’t it?

That is why restoration of officials’ declaration and opening access to key state registers is one of the main tasks for the next year. 

However, the most important anti-corruption battle will be protection of the NABU, the SAPO and the HACC. 

Thanks to appointment of Oleksandr Klymenko as the head of the SAPO, they have shown truly impressive results over past few months: 

  • resumed the Rotterdam+ case and announced 15 new suspicions in it;
  • suspicions were announced in cases of Ukrnafta and Centrenergo, on schemes with which companies from Kolomoyskyi’s orbit earned money. By the way, the oligarch himself was searched and questioned by the NABU at least twice, and the HACC arrested 657 million UAH on accounts of the company related to structures of his company;
  • exposed criminal organization in Odesa, headed by local businessmen Kaufman and Borukhovych, and involving three deputies to the Mayor of Odesa. Trukhanov himself is still the witness, but he already goes to the NABU for questionings;
  • transferred to the court cases against MPs Trukhin, Kuzmin, Kolisnyk, Volynets and Kamelchuk;
  • searches were conducted in the office of the head of Dnipropetrovsk Regional State Administration Valentyn Reznichenko and the number of departments regarding fraud in tenders;
  • former MP Maksym Mykytas was exposed on attempt to give the record bribe in the amount of 22 million EUR; 
  • former head of the State Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov, agro-baron Oleg Bakhmatyuk, former head of the National Bank of Ukraine Kyrylo Shevchenkoб and former MP Oleksandr Hranovskyi received suspicions;
  • the long-awaited case on Mezhyhirya regarding charges to Viktor Yanukovych and his son was also sent to court. 

The dishonest part of Bankova street and its “servants” are well aware that this is only the beginning. Therefore, the issue of survival for them is destruction or at least neutralization of anti-corruption bodies. 

To do this, corrupt officials may try to dismiss Klymenko. It is very easy to do this today. They need only the decision of the disciplinary commission controlled by the Prosecutor General and Kostin’s order.

If authorities decide to do this, it will be the end of effectiveness of the NABU and the SAPO. Kostin himself and Klymenko’s current deputy Synyuk, whom Tatarov and Co. pushed into the position of the head of the SAPO, will start to perform duties of chief anti-corruption prosecutor.

If Klymenko is not dismissed, corrupt officials will try to give the Prosecutor General, the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Bureau of Investigation or Pechersk court the right to take cases from the NABU. Actually, this is how Bankova saved Tatarov from prison. At that time, they did it completely illegally. Today, they will try to legalize the scheme through the Parliament by amending the law. 

Our main task as the society is not only to repel these attacks, but also to protect the head of the SAPO and all his successors from political dismissal through amendments to the law. We must protect the NABU / the SAPO / the HACC, their powers and key people. I am convinced that Western partners will be our allies in this matter. The same Western partners without whose money and weapons our victory over Russia is impossible.

Another domestic front is the judicial reform. Complete restart of key judicial bodies, namely the High Council of Justice (HCJ) and the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ), which we started back in 2021, was one of the main arguments in favor of granting us the EU candidate status. The quality and success of implementation of this reform will determine whether membership negotiations will begin. And here we will face another battle. In January, the congress of judges will be held, where judges will have to select eight members to the HCJ. The body will not be able to resume its work without this.

However, the judicial mafia has completely different plans. They are not interested in resuming work of the HCJ. First of all, because most of their proteges failed to pass the Ethics Council. 

If the judicial mafia manages to block the appointment of new members of the HCJ, it will take us another six months or a year at least. And we cannot afford such luxury, because the HCJ is the only body that can dismiss or at least suspend the collaborator judge, appoint or transfer judges to places where they are critically lacking, or punish the judge for disciplinary violations.

In early 2023, we will also have hot phase of the competition to the HQCJ. Recently, the Competition Commission has announced the list of 64 candidates who have passed to the next stage and will be interviewed. We were somewhat disappointed to see some names in this list. However, we hope that members of the Commission will make efforts to distinguish the wheat from the chaff and recommend the best candidates for appointment. We will assist them in this in every possible way. 


So, I started this article with the fact that we do not see examples of systemic corruption. One that is organized by top officials of the state and which washes away huge flows of budget funds.

At the same time, we see more and more signs of preparations for the introduction of such schemes for the post-war period. Part of the political elite is already preparing to run wild with money that the West will allocate for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

As soon as there are too many of these attempts, we will have to stop them in public way. We have big request to the authorities. Do not bring the situation to this. This is exactly what is not on time nowadays…

Let’s imagine that we win the war in 2023. And the money that we are talking about will immediately come to Ukraine.

They will obviously come in parts. Any attempt to steal them will lead to only one thing. We will not receive next tranches. No country will give taxes of its citizens into hands of the authorities that steal them. 

So, even when the NABU catches up scums, it will not be better for us. We will already lose money for reconstruction. This is exactly the case when it is much more important to prevent the crime than to punish it later. 

The only way to avoid this scenario is to deprive the government of any influence on determining contractors who will use this money. Undoubtedly, the government should determine WHAT to build, but not WHO will do it. 

The money that the West and other partners will give for the post-war reconstruction should not go directly into the general budget or any government-controlled fund. They can go through special programs of the World Bank or the IMF, or through the specially created fund under the control of donors.

I am far from thinking that in this case there will be no corruption for sure. But it will not be our problem. If they try to steal there and it is exposed (and it will be exposed for sure), we do not care. It will not affect the amount of money allocated for Ukraine.

And it is self-deception to think that some IT tools will protect this money from theft. They will help to see corruption, but they will not definitely prevent theft. 

Let me remind you that the cartel of “Big Construction” was stealing our taxes through the Prozorro system. The latter is undoubtedly the best IT solution in the procurement system. And did it help much?  

To sum up. Officials who steal during the war are internal enemies, because they jeopardize the Western support that the country needs. Next year, they will make every effort to destroy the NABU / the SAPO. The same people will block the restoration of declaration and access to the state registers. The judicial mafia will try to block the launch of renewed High Council of Justice.

The good news is that they will not succeed. For the simple reason that their plans are obvious to us and our Western partners. We understand exactly how we will counteract them. And we know exactly where these people will end up in history. Please forgive my hate speech, you know, these are the times.   

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