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Discontent grows over wartime corruption in Ukraine

FILE - Ukraine's lawmakers react during a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
FILE - Ukraine's lawmakers react during a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Copyright Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Daniel Bellamy with AFP
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Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have signed an online petition, demanding transparency in civil servants' asset declarations, amid growing discontent.

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“At present, hiding these statements from Ukrainians amounts to covering up the widespread corruption in the country,” reads the text, which was published on Wednesday.

Posted online on the presidency website dedicated to citizen initiatives, the petition has received more than 83,000 votes, far more than the 25,000 needed for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to respond.

He is being asked to send the draft law back to parliament, by using his right of veto.

At its first reading the draft law was set up to restore an obligation for civil servants to immediately declare their assets - but an amendment at the second reading has now delayed the launch of the Register of Declarations by a year after MPs lacked 27 votes to immediately open it

The petitioners, who are supported by non-governmental agencies that fight corruption, are demanding that the civil servants must have to declare their assets immediately.

“Citizens and journalists have been deprived of a tool for controlling the decisions of state agents which remains the main guarantee against corruption,” the petition states.

According to a survey published at the end of July by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 89% of Ukrainians consider corruption to be a serious problem. It is even their main concern, behind the invasion of Russia.

"This is a very important subject in times of war, when we see all the scandals concerning apartments, houses abroad and luxury cars already revealed," said AntAC, a non-profit organisation devoted to fighting corruption.

Pushed by the European Union and the G7, President Zelenskky has been making pledges regarding this sensitive subject in recent months.

On Thursday MEP Michael Gahler, a member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that the register must open immediately and not be delayed for a year.

Also on Thursday, a former ally, billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, was sent to court on suspicion of embezzling funds from a bank he co-founded.

And at the end of August, more than 200 military enlistment centres were raided to eradicate a system allowing conscripts to pay to escape the army.

The powerful Minister of Defence Oleksiï Reznikov even had to leave his post, after several scandals within his ministry.

Transparency International, one of the leading anti-corruption non-governmental bodies, rates Ukraine at just 116th out of the 180 states it monitors for corruption.

According to its "Global Corruption Barometer" 23% of public service users paid a bribe in the previous 12 months.

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