President names new defence minister to “purge the army of thieves and fraudsters” as it faces eastern rebellion.
Ukrainian police have detained the head of the state emergency service and his deputy on suspicion of extorting bribes, during a televised government meeting in the capital Kiev.
Police handcuffed emergency services chief Serhiy Bochkovsky and his deputy, Vasiliy Stoyetsky, and marched the pair out of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Prosecutors said the men embezzled state funds and were illegally involved with off-shore companies.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the order to arrest Bochkovsky and Stoyetsky during a televised meeting “was not a show”.
“We decided it was necessary to do it this way, during the Cabinet meeting, as inoculation, as a preventative measure against corrupt officials, of whom we unfortunately have many,” Avakov said.
Avakov said the offices of the emergency services were being raided as part of investigations.
The government in Ukraine has vowed to take firm action to stamp out rampant corruption and the highly public nature of the detentions appeared designed to convey the impression that anti-graft measures are picking up pace.
Ukraine’s economy, already hamstrung by crippling bureaucracy and corruption, has been further burdened by a war in the east with Russian-backed separatists.
The government has successfully negotiated a $17.5bn credit programme with the International Monetary Fund against the promise of deep and exhaustive reforms.
Speaking after Bochkovsky and Stoyetsky’s detention, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he would ask Western governments to assist in tracking down any funds salted away in foreign accounts by the officials.
“The government gave firm and clear orders for a real fight with corruption in the country – in a country which is at war, in a country which spends billions on the army and defence, where people are helping our armed forces, our state, and our country to survive in this horrible war with Russia.”