Ukraine live briefing: Ukraine widens corruption crackdown; France to give Kyiv air defense radar

A pedestrian passes a mural by Italian urban artist Tvboy on a wall in Ukraine's Bucha on Feb. 1. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)
5 min

Ukrainian authorities widened an anti-corruption drive Wednesday, raiding and searching multiple locations, including construction companies in Kyiv and the home of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

Local media, including Ukrainska Pravda, reported that the raid against Kolomoisky — who made his fortune through energy companies, banking, airlines and media — was related to an investigation into embezzlement. The construction companies are also accused by Ukraine’s security service of laundering money to benefit former lawmakers allied with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the searches in a nightly address and said the head of Ukraine’s customs service was also dismissed. “We will not allow anyone to weaken our state,” he said. “Change as much as necessary to ensure that people do not abuse power.” The moves come as Ukraine prepares to host a summit with the European Union in Kyiv.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • The former head of procurement at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry was charged with embezzlement for allegedly buying nearly 3,000 bulletproof vests of inadequate quality for more than $2.7 million, Ukraine’s Security Service said in a statement. “The purity of processes within the Ministry of Defense, and the defense forces in general, is especially important,” Zelensky said. Any internal supply, any procurement — everything must be absolutely as clean and honest as the external supply for our defense."
  • The fresh investigations came ahead of the E.U. summit on Friday, a meeting Kyiv hopes will help its bid to become a full member of the bloc. An E.U. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to brief the press on Wednesday, called the earlier dismissals “a signal of their determination and of the functioning of what they have now put in place.”
  • Russia is preparing to hold elections on Sept. 10 in the Ukrainian territories it occupies, Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko told reporters Wednesday. Residents of those regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — are “full-fledged citizens of Russia, and we can’t deprive them of the right to elect and the right to be elected,” Matviyenko said.

2. Battleground updates

  • At least two people were killed Wednesday night in Kramatorsk in a missile strike on a residential building, the governor of the Donetsk region said on Facebook. The building was “completely destroyed” by a Russian missile, the governor, Pavlo Kyrilenko, said, adding that rescue workers were searching for survivors in the rubble.
  • France is supplying Ukraine with air defense radar systems to track incoming missiles and drones in the area around Kyiv. “This radar will be the cherry on the cake,” the Associated Press quoted Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov as saying at the handover ceremony in northern France, where the equipment is produced. He described the Ground Master 200 system as “very effective,” saying it would mean “Ukrainian lives are saved."
  • U.S. drone maker offers Ukraine two aircraft for $1. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the maker of armed drones, said it offered two of its training aircraft for sale for the symbolic price of $1. The sale would need approval from the Biden administration. The Wall Street Journal reported it would cost Ukraine $10 to ship it and $8 million a year to sustain it. The U.S. has provided small drones, but the kind offered are larger and can be armed with missiles.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry responded to a report accusing it of firing rockets carrying banned antipersonnel mines into Russian-controlled territory. In a statement on Telegram, the ministry said Ukraine is exercising its right to self-defense, according to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. It also urged Human Rights Watch, which released the report, to pressure Russia to end its “criminal war.”

3. Global impact

  • Ukraine “really” deserves to join NATO, Czech President-elect Petr Pavel said. Speaking to the BBC, the retired general said Ukraine would be “morally and practically ready” to join once the war with Russia ends. “If we leave Ukraine without assistance, they would most probably lose this war," he said. “And if they lose — we all lose.”
  • South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup did not rule out sending weapons to Ukraine when asked about it at a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Lee said that he was aware of the “need for the international effort” and that the South Korean government is paying “close attention.” Such an act would require changes to Seoul’s policy that says defense goods can be exported only “for peaceful purposes.”
  • The International Olympic Committee said sanctions against Russian and Belarusian athletes are “not negotiable.” The sanctions prohibit international sporting events in either country, as well as the display of their flags. Zelensky has called on the IOC to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing, but international sporting officials say that would constitute discrimination. The IOC has yet to make an official decision, Nenad Lalovic, a member of the executive board and president of the Serbian Wrestling Federation, said in an interview.

4. Analysis from our correspondents

The argument for why the West should change course on Ukraine: As Ukrainian demands for weapons could focus on fighter jets, a new report warns that the West’s current stance on Ukraine could put the United States on the path toward open-ended conflict that could escalate even more dangerously.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Kyiv has clamored for more arms. The West, in turn, has agreed to their requests at almost every stage, providing weapons ranging from drones and HIMARS launchers to battle tanks, writes Ishaan Tharoor.

But a recent report by the influential Rand Corp. advises Western powers to push for a diplomatic solution to the conflict rather than continuing to arm Ukraine and allowing the war to continue.

Annabelle Timsit, Alex Horton, David L. Stern and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.