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Corruption in Ukraine

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Corruption is an issue in Ukrainian society[1][2] going back to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.[3] After declaring independence from the Soviet Union, Ukraine faced a series of politicians from different sides of the political spectrum, as well as criminal bosses and oligarchs, who used the corruption of police, political parties, and industry to gain power.[4] Despite improvements, corruption remains an obstacle to joining the European Union.[5]


The modern period of Ukrainian corruption can be traced back to the integration of individuals linked to Soviet organised crime into the nomenklatura (Soviet, including Ukrainian, ruling elite) in the 1980s.[6]

After achieving independence, Ukraine faced a period of rather violent corruption in the 1990s and early 2000s. United States diplomats described Ukraine under Presidents Kuchma (in office from 1994 to 2005) and Yushchenko (in office from 2005 to 2010) as a kleptocracy, according to a United States diplomatic cables leak.[7]

Due to revenue from industry, tourism and ports, this was particularly an issue in Donetsk Oblast.[8] In 2005, mass graves with businesspersons, judges, lawyers, and investigators were discovered in Donetsk. [9] Donetsk's ex-Governor Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions was among many accused of having close ties to organised crime.[10] Yanukovych nonetheless went on to be elected President of Ukraine in the 2010 election. In 2014, however, he was overthrown in the Maidan Uprising, which broke out after he refused to sign a trade deal with the European Union. Many protestors cited corruption as the most significant reason for their discontent.[11][12] Yanukovych was considered more pro-Russian than his predecessors, leading Ukrainian nationalists to argue that corruption was tied to their country's relationship with Russia.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19] Corruption reforms saw some successes in Ukraine since the Maidan Revolution, with a reduction in waste due to police reform, public procurement and the dissolution of state-owned industries, though critics noted this progress to be limited.[20]

Ukraine has been under increased scrutiny on the issue of corruption amidst unprecedented financial aid provided to the country during the 2022 Russian invasion. In January 2023, several senior officials, including five provincial governors, lost their jobs over a corruption scandal. Deputy Defense Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov, following a major procurement scandal in the ministry, and deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, also resigned. A few days earlier a deputy minister at the Ministry of Infrastructure was sacked after the anti-corruption agency detained him while he was receiving a $400,000 bribe, according to Ukrainian authorities.[21][22]

Comparative research on corruption[edit]

In a 1995 survey by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, 42% of respondents stated that corruption "is a shameful phenomenon that has no objective grounds" while 36% chose the option that corruption is "a component of social traditions."[23] Respondents from Southern and Western Ukraine more often chose the option of corruption being "a component of social traditions" (42% and 43%). The option "a shameful phenomenon that has no objective grounds" was more often chosen by respondents in Central Ukraine (48%) and Eastern Ukraine (53%).[23]

In 2012 Ernst & Young put Ukraine among the three most-corrupt nations from 43 surveyed, alongside Colombia and Brazil.[24][25] In 2015 The Guardian called Ukraine "the most corrupt nation in Europe".[26] According to a poll conducted by Ernst & Young in 2017, experts considered Ukraine to be the ninth-most corrupt nation from 53 surveyed.[27]

Transparency International's 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which scored 180 countries on a scale from 0 ("highly corrupt") to 100 ("very clean"), gave Ukraine a score of 36. When ranked by score, Ukraine ranked 104th among the 180 countries in the Index, where the country ranked first is perceived to have the most honest public sector.[28] For comparison with worldwide scores, the best score was 90 (ranked 1), the worst score was 11 (ranked 180), and the average score was 43.[29] For comparison with regional scores, the best score among Eastern European and Central Asian countries [Note 1] was 53, the worst score was 18 and the average score was 35. Transparency International noted that Ukraine's score has been improving steadily for 11 years, rising three points from last year.

The focus on justice system reforms, including restructuring judicial self-governance bodies and increasing judicial independence, has been key. Efforts to strengthen the capacity and independence of its anti-corruption agency (NABU) and its anti-corruption prosecution body (SAPO) – coupled with a national anti-corruption strategy and its comprehensive implementation programme – have provided a solid foundation for ongoing anti-corruption efforts.

However, the worrisome number of high-level corruption cases being detected and prosecuted by these agencies shows that much work remains to be done.[30]

In the 2010s prominent Ukrainian economist Oleh Havrylyshyn [uk] performed a comparison of the Ukrainian corruption in a wide global context based on data provided by Transparency International. This research estimated the level of the corruption in Ukraine as comparable to countries of Sub-Saharan Africa with Uganda as the closest counterpart.[31][32]

Types of corruption[edit]

Corruption in Ukraine followed similar paths as organized crime and political parties in the post-Soviet Union.[33]


In the 2000s bribes were given to ensure that public services were delivered either in time or at all.[34] Ukrainians stated they give bribes because they thought it is customary and expected.[34][35] Some of the biggest bribes involved more than US$1 million.[36] According to a 2008 Management Systems International (MSI) sociological survey, the highest corruption levels were found in vehicle inspection (58%), the police (54%), health care (54%), the courts (49%) and higher education (44%).[37] In 2011, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych stated that corruption cost the state budget US$2.5 billion in revenues annually and that through corrupt dealings in public procurement 10% to 15% (US$7.4 billion) of the state budget ended up "in the pockets of officials".[38]

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2006, the main causes of corruption in Ukraine were a compromised justice system and an over-controlling non-transparent government combined with business-political ties to Russia and a weakened civil society.[39] Corruption is regularly discussed in the Ukrainian media.[40][41]

In 2016, the IMF mission chief for Ukraine stated that the reduction of corruption was a key test for continued international support.[42] Some western analysts believed that large foreign loans were not encouraging reform, but enabling the corrupt extraction of funds out of the country.[43] U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland urged Ukraine to start prosecuting corrupt officials: "It's time to start locking up people who have ripped off the Ukrainian population for too long and it is time to eradicate the cancer of corruption".[44]

In Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer 2013, Ukrainians reported that the most common institution to which they had paid bribes during the preceding two years was the police (49% of Ukrainians surveyed had done so), medical and health services (41%), and the education system (33%).[45] Through repeated surveys from 2000–2010, a majority of Ukrainians self-reported corrupt transactions with the Government.[34][46] [47][48]

In 2008, 21% responded that they or someone living in their household had paid a bribe in any form in the previous 12 months.[49] In a 2001 GfK survey 43% stated they had never personally given bribes.[35]

Political corruption[edit]

In the years after Ukrainian independence, election fraud was widespread, mainly through the use of "administrative resources".[50] On the other hand, according to Taras Kuzio, election fraud in Ukraine could only reach five percent of the total vote.[51] Following the initial rounds of voting in the 2004 presidential election, the Supreme Court of Ukraine ruled that due to the scale of the electoral fraud, it was impossible to establish the election results and ordered a revote.[52] Afterwards outright vote rigging diminished,[53] although politicians still claimed election fraud, and administrative tricks to get more votes for a particular party had not vanished.[54] The Ukrainian electorate remained highly skeptical about the honesty of the election process.[55] Any voter who engages in election fraud faces a maximum sentence of two years in jail[citation needed], though activists say no one has been punished for voter fraud since Ukrainian independence.[56]

In the 2000s United States diplomats claimed the privatization of several Ukrainian state enterprises was rigged in favor of political friends.[7] On a regional level, corruption was discovered in connection with land allocation.[57]

Around 2010 Ukrainian politicians regularly accused each other of corruption while claiming to fight it themselves.[58] After going undercover in the Reforms for the Future parliamentary faction in early 2012, Roman Zabzaliuk claimed this faction "bought" its members for "US$500,000 (for a 'defection' from other parliamentary groups), and then they pay a monthly salary of $20,000-25,000"; in contrast, according to Reforms for the Future, Zabzalyuk had pretended he was "suffering a very serious disease" and the group had managed to raise some $100,000 for Zabzalyuk to undergo surgery in Israel.[59]

Since 2011, the President, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Prime Minister, Prosecutor General, ministers and other Ukrainian top officials have been liable for prosecution for corruption.[60] Since 2010 the Ukrainian press brought up thousands of examples of criminal cases in which state officials, as well as politicians and businessmen linked to the then ruling Party of Regions, were shown leniency unprecedented for the general population of suspects.[61]

Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaliy Zakharchenko stated in 2012 that since 2010 about 400 politicians had faced criminal charges in connection with corruption; most of them from the Party of Regions, followed by Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine–People's Self-Defense Bloc members.[62]

In the early 2010s Ukrainian media, particularly the Ukrayinska Pravda, regularly unveiled millionaire lifestyles of Ukrainian politicians and public servants,[63] utterly at odds with their declared official incomes.[64]

According to historian Andrew Wilson, as of 2016 progress in reducing corruption was poor.[65] A 2015 survey showed that 72% of adults blamed "corruption of power" for the lack of progress in reform.[65]

A 2016 requirement for MPs to declare their wealth led to a declared cumulative wealth of about $460 million for the 413 MPs.[66] Reacting to public criticism, MPs cancelled a salary rise that would have doubled their monthly salary.[67] This measure was part of an Anti-Corruption Package passed into law in 2014, which was a requirement of international financial support for Ukraine and a prerequisite to eligibility for visa-free travel within the European Union.[66][68]

Local politics[edit]

In the early 21st century several Ukrainian mayors were suspected of using their posts to serve their own business interests.[69]

In 2013 Serhiy Odarych, former mayor of Cherkasy, was suspected of causing a 600,000 loss to the city budget.[70]

Judicial corruption[edit]

In the early 2010s Ukrainian politicians and analysts described the system of justice in Ukraine as "rotten to the core"[71][72] and complained about political pressure put on judges and corruption.[73] Independent lawyers and human rights activists complained Ukrainian judges regularly came under pressure to hand down a certain verdict.[74] Ukraine's court system was widely regarded as corrupt.[75] A Ukrainian Justice Ministry survey in 2009 revealed that only 10% of respondents trusted the nation's court system. Less than 30% believed that it was still possible to get a fair trial.[71] Although judicial independence exists in principle, in practice there was little separation of juridical and political powers. Judges were subjected to pressure by political and business interests.[76]

A 2017 Reuters article quoted then-PM Volodomyr Groysman, saying that "the weakest link in our fight against corruption is the Ukrainian court"; giving an example of 30 judges "with annual salaries ranging from US$10,000-13,000" who owned Porsches.[77] As another example, in 2012, Volodymyr Rokytskyi, Deputy Head of Ukraine's Security Service, was photographed in public wearing a US$32,000 luxury wristwatch—despite the fact that its price amounted to his yearly official income—at a joint Ukrainian-American event dedicated to fighting illegal drugs.[78][unreliable source?]In the 2010s Ukrainian judges were arrested while taking bribes.[79]

In the early 2010s critics also complained that officials and their children (the latter known as "mazhory"[80]) received favourable sentences compared with common citizens.[81][82]

Kyiv Post reported in 2018 that several candidates for a post in the new High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine were themselves suspected/associated with corruption.[83] AutoMaidan, Dejure and the Anti-corruption Action Center criticised the Ethics Council's June 2022 decisions in nominations to and exclusions from the High Council of Justice as including judges tainted in relation to corruption and as unfairly excluding the anti-corruption whistleblower judge Larysa Golnyk.[84]

In May 2023, on the orders of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, President of the Supreme Court of Ukraine Vsevolod Kniaziev was detained while allegedly receiving a bribe.[85] Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Service (NABU) and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) reported on their social media accounts about allegations of corruption in the country's Supreme Court of Ukraine. Anti Corruption officials said that “NABU and SAP have uncovered massive corruption in the Supreme Court, specifically plans to profit unfairly from the Supreme Court leadership and judges.[86]

Corruption in the public sector[edit]

In 2015 corruption allegations were made against Energoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear power operator.[87] In 2016, Energoatom's assets and bank accounts were frozen by Ukrainian courts over allegedly unpaid debts, which Energoatom appealed.[88][89]

In 2016, many of Ukraine's major provincial highways were in very poor condition, with an Ukravtodor official stating that 97% of roads were in need of repair. The road repair budget was set at about ₴20 billion, but corruption caused the budget to be poorly spent.[90]

Corruption in higher education[edit]

In the 2000s and 2010s higher education in Ukraine was plagued with bribery.[91][92][93] In 2011 33% of all students claimed they have encountered corruption in their school, 29% heard about cases of corruption from other students, while 38% had not encountered corruption.[94] According to Transparency International research done in 2008, 47.3% of university students stated that a bribe had been demanded from them; of those, 29% had paid this bribe freely.[37] Students could "buy" a college entry, exam results, marking doctoral and/or master's theses.[37][93]

Bribes ranged from US$10 to US$50 for an exam pass to several thousand for entry to a university.[37] According to government sources, bribes varied from US$80 to US$21,500.[37] Salaries of teachers and professors were low in Ukraine compared with other professions; this may have tempted them to demand bribes.[37][93] According to Ararat Osipian entire corruption hierarchies formed in Ukraine's colleges and universities.[95] These hierarchies evolved from the 1990s as the result of uncontrolled and rampant corruption.[96] Ararat claimed in 2010 that corrupt ruling regimes control corrupt universities and force them into compliance,[97] including during the elections.[98] This was aided by universities largely still having Stalinist type bureaucracies, unable to transform.[99]

Until 2015 university autonomy was nonexistent.[100] In 2015 the Ukrainian parliament passed a new law on higher education to give universities more autonomy, including control over their own finances.[93] The aim was to encourage private investment, fundraising and the creation of endowments.[93]

In the 2000s Ukrainian government officials were caught with fake university diplomas.[101]

Corruption in the social security system[edit]

In 2012 President Viktor Yanukovych reported that only about 23 percent of social service funds go to those who actually need them.[24] The Ukrainian media featured many stories revealing that even parliamentarians illegally received social benefits, fraudulently claiming to be war and Chernobyl veterans.[24]

Corruption in healthcare[edit]

Though medical care in state-run hospitals is theoretically free for Ukrainians, patients' paying money there to ensure they receive the treatment required was widespread in the early 21st century.[102][103] In 2012 advocacy groups accused Health Ministry officials of embezzling money that should have been used to treat AIDS patients by buying AIDS drugs at hugely inflated prices and then receiving kickbacks.[104]

Corruption and business[edit]

In 2011 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development stated corruption was a "significant obstacle" to doing business in Ukraine.[105]

Research conducted by Ernst & Young in 2011 and 2012 showed that the practice of top managers accepting bribes increased by 9 percent in 2011 and 15 percent in 2012.[24] Another 4 percent were ready to pay bribes in order to hide the details of their financial performance.[24]

In 2016, politician Natalia Korolevska estimated that "Corruption has forced business to go in the shadow where now we have 45% of our economy".[106]

In the early 2010s the representative of one United Kingdom-based company claimed non-Ukrainian companies often lost contracts if they did not pay bribes or failed to "out-bribe" their competitors.[74] Ukrainians and business representatives claimed that "Business ventures above a certain level require palm-greasing of some functionary at some level".[74]

Costs of corruption[edit]

According to Ararat Osipian due to endemic corruption, Ukraine failed to sustain its economic growth trends in the 2000s[107] The corruption, perceived as reckless, that marked President Viktor Yanukovich's rule contributed to his downfall in 2014 and left the country's army ill-equipped to counter Russia's invasion of Crimea.[108]

In 2008 Transparency International estimated that 30 to 50 percent of all Ukrainians had faced government corruption.[37] Juhani Grossmann (working for an a.o. Management Systems International project)[109] claimed in 2009 that "Ukrainians pay roughly ₴3.5 billion, or more than US$400 million, in bribes annually."[41] The previous year, he claimed that the figure was US$700 million.[110]

Anti-corruption efforts[edit]

After his election in late 2004 President Viktor Yushchenko promised a "War on Corruption".[111] Several officials were indeed arrested and/or questioned early 2005 (among them Borys Kolesnikov[112][113][114] and Yuri Boyko,[115][failed verification][116] later ministers in the Azarov Government).

Oleksandr Turchynov, former chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, claimed that in the summer of 2005 Yushchenko prevented an investigation into allegedly fraudulent practices in the transport of Turkmen natural gas to Ukraine and prevented the arrest of Boyko for abuse of office while heading Naftogaz:[115][116] In a 2005 interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, "Turchynov stated that Yushchenko told him in mid-August to stop 'persecuting my men' and that the investigation of RosUkrEnergo was 'creating a conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin'".[116] A 2008 survey showed that 73% of people in Ukraine considered the second Tymoshenko Government's actions against corruption ineffective; comparable figures for the U.S. and the UK were 73% and 39%.[49] In a survey in 2001, when Kuchma was president, 80% of Ukrainians "totally/fairly agreed" with the statement: "The present government has no real interest in punishing corruption".[35]

Ukraine joined the Group of States Against Corruption in 2006.[117]

Over the years, several anti-corruption laws have been passed by the Ukrainian parliament.[60][118] In September 2011 the National Anti-Corruption Committee was introduced.[119]

Like his predecessor Yushchenko,[111] President Viktor Yanukovych (and his Azarov Government[120]) made the fight against corruption a spearhead in his domestic policies.[119][121][122] Political opponents of Yanukovych accused him of using his anti-corruption campaign for politically motivated trials; the general public in Ukraine largely shared this view.[123][124][74][125] President Yanukovych denied this.[122]

The International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities spoke in April 2011 of "remarkable successes in fighting corruption in 2010".[126] The EU Ambassador to Ukraine, Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, stated at an investment conference on February 28, 2012, that Yanukovych's pledges of reform "have regrettably produced no such results."[74]

In May 2014, an Anti-Corruption Initiative was established. In December, it appointed Lithuanian economist and former European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud Algirdas Šemeta as Business Ombudsman.[127]

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), for carrying out investigations of corruption, was established in March 2015[128] after its predecessor, the National Anti-Corruption Committee was considered a failure.[citation needed] For designing and implementing systematic change tending to prevent corruption, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption was created in 2015.[129]

In 2015, President Petro Poroshenko sacked Ihor Kolomoisky — the billionaire governor of the key industrial region of Dnipropetrovsk -- after armed men suspected of links to Kolomoisky briefly occupied the offices of a state-owned oil firm in Kyiv.[130]

In 2018, a law came into force requiring that cases concerning corruption be brought directly to the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine.[131][132] In June 2018 President Poroshenko expected the court to be established before the end of 2018.[131] In 2019 the High Anti-Corruption Court did start to work.[133]

Due to IMF concern that oligarchs would use the courts to seize bailout money, parliament passed a bill in 2020 to prevent courts from reversing bank nationalizations. The bill would combat a lawsuit by oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky and others seeking to regain control of PrivatBank, the recipient of a $5.5 billion 2016 bailout and an alleged "money laundering machine" under Kolomoisky.[134]

In 2020, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled that anti-corruption legislation, including the mandatory electronic declaration of income, was unconstitutional.[135] President Zelensky warned that if parliament did not restore these anti-corruption laws, foreign aid, loans and a visa-free travel to the European Union were at risk. The Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine reported that Ukraine would not receive the scheduled $700 million IMF loan before the end of 2020 because of the issue. IMF assessment teams had not visited Kyiv for eight months. A visit was necessary for further IMF loan tranches to be released.[136][137]

On 4 December 2020, the Ukrainian parliament restored anti-corruption legislation shut down by the court decision, when it reauthorised criminal penalties for officials who provide false information about their incomes.[138] On 29 December 2020 President Volodymyr Zelensky suspended the Constitutional Court's chairperson Oleksandr Tupytskyi for two months in an effort to overturn the court's October 2020 decision.[139]

On 19 July 2022, a commission created for selecting a new head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO, which oversees NABU) via an open competition procedure announced Oleksandr Klymenko as the winner of the competition, out of 37 candidates.[140][141][142]

Public perception[edit]

According to Ukrainians the most corrupt in the early 2010s were the judiciary, the police, public servants, the health service and parliament.[45]

Corruption Perceptions Index ratings[edit]

Corruption Perceptions Index ratings in Ukraine 1998–2018. Lower scores reflect higher corruption levels; higher scores mean lower corruption levels.

Transparency International produces an annual report listing each country's Corruption Perceptions Index score. This "score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts and, through 2011, ranged between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt)."[143] From 2012 on, the scores were presented on a 0-100 scale.[144]

The following table lists Ukraine's place in the Corruption Perceptions Index table, based on Transparency International's annual reports from 1999 onward. The methods used in assessing the Index change from year to year, so comparisons between years are difficult.

Year Ranking Corruption Perception Index Score Confidence Range[145] Standard Deviation Standard Error[146] Surveys Used[147] Source
0-10 0-100
1998 69 of 85 2.8 1.6 6 [148]
1999 75 of 99 2.6 1.4 10 [149]
2001 83 of 91 2.1 1.1 6 [150]
2002 85 of 102 2.4 0.7 6 [151]
2003 106 of 133 2.3 0.6 10 [152]
2004 122 of 146 2.2 2.0–2.4 10 [153]
2005 107 of 158 2.6 2.4–2.8 8 [154]
2006 99 of 163 2.8 2.5–3.0 6 [143][155]
2007 118 of 179 2.7 2.4–3.0 7 [156][157]
2008 134 of 180 2.5 2.0–2.8 8 [158][159]
2009 146 of 180 2.2 2.0–2.6 8 [160][161]
2010 134 of 178 2.4 2.1–2.6 8 [162][163]
2011 152 of 183 2.3 2.1–2.5 10 [164][165]
2012 144 of 176 26 24–29 8 [166][144]
2013 144 of 175 25 22–28 8 [167]
2014 142 of 175 26 23-29 1.6 8 [168][169]
2015 130 of 167 27 24-30 5.46 1.93 8 [170]
2016 131 of 176 29 25-32 1.97 9 [171]
2017 130 of 180 30 [172]
2018 120 of 180 32 [173]
2019 126 of 180 30 [174]
2020 117 of 180 33 [175]
2021 122 of 180 32 [176]
2022 116 of 180 33 [177]

Note: For 1999 and 2000, the data were listed as 1998 and 1999 respectively. From 2001, the data listed are stated to be for the year of the annual report. Up to 2005, the annual report included some measures of the uncertainty of the index scores; these data were omitted from the annual reports from 2006 onwards, but were contained in the CPI report.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan


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External links[edit]