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US spies see new Ukrainian defense minister as ‘even more corrupt’ – Seymour Hersh

Rustem Umerov “made a fortune” supervising the sale of government property, the American journalist has reported

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov is “even more corrupt” than his predecessor Aleksey Reznikov, American journalist Seymour Hersh reported on Thursday, citing an anonymous US intelligence official.

Reznikov was dismissed by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky earlier this week, with Umerov confirmed as his replacement on Wednesday. 

Reznikov and his subordinates have been implicated in numerous graft scandals, including a scheme by which his ministry purchased substandard winter uniforms for inflated prices from a Turkish supplier owned by a Ukrainian contact. 

“The new guy is even more corrupt,” Hersh quoted a “knowledgeable US intelligence official” as saying. “He ran the sale of government property and made a fortune. Has a huge villa in Majorca.” 

The source claimed that Umerov’s name was not on a list of 35 corrupt officials allegedly presented to Zelensky by CIA Director William Burns in January. Zelensky fired a host of senior officials and administrators after meeting Burns, although Reznikov defied media speculation to stay in his post. The existence of Burns’ list was first revealed by Hersh in April.

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“The list was not a telephone book of crooks; just the ones receiving US military and economic financing,” Hersh’s source said on Thursday. The statement backs up earlier claims that Zelensky’s purge was carried out at Washington’s request, with the US seemingly keen to stop the misappropriation of its aid.

Umerov’s appointment was welcomed by the Western media. Prior to taking over Reznikov’s post, Umerov had served as head of Ukraine’s state property agency, where the Washington Post said he “gained praise for instituting massive audits and weeding out alleged corruption and misappropriation of funds.”

However, Umerov and two of his former deputies at the agency are currently the subject of a corruption investigation, Ukrainian media reported on Wednesday. Citing court documents, news site Comments.ua claimed that the High Anti-Corruption Court (VAKS) of Ukraine opened the probe in August after receiving reports that Umerov had obstructed an embezzlement investigation and covered up the sale of electricity below market prices by Tsentrenergo, Ukraine’s only state-owned electricity-generating company.

Summing up the shakeup at the Defense Ministry in Kiev, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated on Wednesday that Zelensky had “fired one defense minister over corruption but would not launch an investigation and instead appointed another minister, who is being investigated for corruption.”

September 08, 2023 at 07:57PM

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