The chairman of Ukraine’s Supreme Court has been removed from office after being arrested in a bribery investigation, two anti-corruption agencies reported Tuesday.
The bureaus did not name the chairman, but said it was the chief of the Supreme Court. According to local news reports, Vsevolod Knyazev was dismissed as chief justice on Tuesday after an overwhelming majority of the court’s judges voted to strip him of his post.
Authorities accused the judiciary of accepting $2.7 million in bribes.
“This is a dark day in the court’s history,” the judges of the court said in a joint statement. “We must be worthy and withstand such a blow.”
The judges added that they would cooperate fully with any investigations and that the court “should act on the principle of self-purification and take all necessary measures”.
Mr. Knyazev remains a Supreme Court judge; a separate body, the Supreme Judicial Council, has the power to remove him, according to Ukrinform, a state news agency.
Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau posted photos on Facebook showing stacks of US dollars on a table and sofa. Bureau chief Semen Kryvonos said bribes were paid for the ruling in favor of finance group Finance and Credit, which Reuters says is owned by a prominent businessman.
The Office of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor said on Telegram that it and the agency had “caught the Supreme Court Chief Justice and a lawyer in the act of receiving an illegal advantage.”
Corruption, and Ukraine’s long-standing fight against it, had largely come to the public’s attention after the Russian invasion last February, as Ukrainians rallied around the military and government at a time of national peril.
But this year, President Volodymyr Zelensky retrained his focus on fighting corruption, aiming to preserve Ukrainians’ trust in the wartime government after several officials were fired in January amid a major corruption scandal.
And while Ukraine seeks swift entry into the European Union, the country’s inability to suppress bribery and corruption is worrying its Western allies.
Anastasia Kuznitsova And Matt Surman reporting contributed.