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Ukrainians want US to stop corruption complaints – NBC

Ties between Washington and Kiev have reportedly deteriorated over aid delays and pressure to reduce fraud

Relations between the US and Ukrainian governments have reportedly soured, deteriorating to their lowest point since the conflict with Russia escalated in 2022, partly because of irritation over pressure from Washington to tackle rampant corruption in Kiev.

US and Ukrainian officials privately acknowledge growing friction in the relationship, NBC News reported on Thursday. Kiev’s frustration stems largely from delays in US weapons deliveries and incessant demands to ramp up anti-corruption efforts.

Questions over Ukraine’s corruption problems have led to “repeated disagreement,” current and former government officials told NBC. “Ukrainian officials are particularly irritated with the US ambassador, Bridget Brink, over the issue.”

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Pentagon sounds alarm over Ukraine corruption

The bilateral strains come at a time when Ukrainian forces are losing ground on the battlefield and the administration of US President Joe Biden is struggling to keep military aid flowing to Kiev. US lawmakers finally approved $61 billion in new Ukraine aid in April, after six months of delays. Biden has been reluctant to authorize increasingly provocative weapons packages for Kiev, such as long-range missiles that Ukraine could use to strike targets deeper in Russian territory.

Ukrainian leaders believe Washington’s ambassador has created “unnecessary tensions” by pressing for more reforms, despite Kiev’s progress in funding an anti-corruption court and a special prosecutor’s office, NBC said. The Biden administration has “lost sight of the overarching priority – winning on the battlefield,” sources close to the government told the media outlet.

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The US military’s inspector general warned lawmakers in a report last month that the conflict with Russia was creating new opportunities for bribes, kickbacks and other corruption in Ukraine. The report noted multiple scandals involving misuse of defense resources, saying, “Endemic corruption persists” in Kiev, which has “one of the least accountable governments in Europe.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Kiev last month that the Ukrainian government must ensure that “the fight against corruption continues at home just as the fight against Russia’s aggression continues on the front lines.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba pushed back on corruption claims in a joint press briefing with Blinken: “If we were as corrupt as the perception says, they simply wouldn’t be giving us any money. They wouldn’t be opening accession talks with Ukraine to accede the European Union, and the United States wouldn’t have trust in Ukraine.”

READ MORE: Zelensky fires officials close to US – WaPo

The two governments also have clashed over Biden’s decision not to attend a peace summit organized by Kiev. Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky publicly stated that Biden’s presence was needed at the summit and his absence would only be cheered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rather than participate in the peace conference, Biden reportedly chose to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles featuring actor George Clooney and other Hollywood stars.


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