As the United States continues to grapple with openly corrupt officials and businesses in Afghanistan and Iraq who have stolen billions in aid, the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian system appears eager to outdo their counterparts. The poster boy of Ukrainian corruption is Vladimir Belonog who has been openly selling meals ready to eat (MREs) that were shipping only days before to the country to support its besieged military. Belonog is selling the MREs with the U.S. markings still on them and the warning “U.S. Government Property, commercial resale is unlawful.” What is most remarkable is that he has not been arrested after selling the aid in plain view of the government. Diplomats and experts have described Ukraine under Presidents Kuchma and Yushchenko as a virtual kleptocracy, or government of thieves.
The United States and its European allies are about to pour billions into one of the most corrupt governments in Europe. Belonog is an example of the utter depravity of these dealers. His county is threatened with attack. It has lost a huge chunk of territory to Russia. Yet, Belonog is siphoning off military aid to feather his own nest — clearly with the assistance of Ukrainian public officials. Corruption is so acceptable that he even gave an interview for the article below — though he removed the MREs off his page after the TIME interview.
In 2012, Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index Ukraine was ranked 144th out of the 176 countries as one of the most corrupt nations in the world — tied with such countries as Bangladesh, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Syria). That same year, Ernst & Young ranked Ukraine among the three most corrupt nations of the world. Sounds perfect for U.S. aid given our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ukrainian media is reporting that MREs were being sold by the caseload almost immediately after they were delivered to the Ukraine. What is distressing is that this was the easy stuff to secure. It was a relatively small shipment in comparison to billions coming down pipeline. Yet, despite the infusion of MREs on the open market, Alexei Mazepa, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, insists that “The meals are safe and sound at our warehouses in Kiev. They have not even been distributed to the bases yet.” Hmmmm.