The chairman of Ukraine’s Supreme Court was removed from his post after being arrested in a bribery investigation, two anti-corruption agencies said on Tuesday.
Authorities did not identify the chairman by name, but said it was the head of the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, Vsevolod Knyazev was fired as chief justice after an overwhelming majority of the court’s judges voted to strip him of the position, according to local news reports.
Authorities accused Justice of accepting $2.7 million in bribes.
“This is a dark day in the court’s history,” the court’s judges said in a joint statement. “We must be dignified and withstand such a blow.”
The judges added that they would cooperate fully with investigations and that the court must “act on the principle of self-purification and take all necessary measures.”
Mr. Knyazev remains a Supreme Court judge; a separate body, the High Council of Justice, has the power to remove him, according to Ukrinforma state news agency.
Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Agency wrote pictures on Facebook which included piles of US dollars piled on a table and sofa. The head of the agency, Semen Kryvonos, said that a bribe was paid for deciding in favor of the finance group Finance and Credit, owned by a prominent businessman, according to Reuters.
The specialized anti-corruption prosecutor’s office said on Telegram that it and the agency had “caught the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a lawyer red-handed receiving an illegal benefit.”
Corruption, and Ukraine’s long struggle against it, had mostly receded from the public eye after the Russian invasion last February, when Ukrainians rallied around the army and government at a time of national peril.
But this year, President Volodymyr Zelensky has refocused his focus on fighting corruption, aimed at maintaining the confidence of Ukrainians in the wartime government after several officials were fired in January after a major corruption scandal.
And as Ukraine seeks swift entry into the EU, the country’s inability to crack down on graft and corruption has concerned its Western allies.
Anastasia Kuznetsova and Matt Surman contributed reporting.