The chair of Ukraine’s Supreme Court was removed from his post after being arrested in a bribery investigation, two anti-corruption bodies said on Tuesday.
The agencies did not identify the chair by name, but said it was the Supreme Court chief. On Tuesday, Vsevolod Knyazev was dismissed as chief justice after an overwhelming majority of the court’s judges voted to strip him of the position, according to local news reports.
The authorities accused the justice of accepting $2.7 million in bribes.
“This is a dark day in the history of the court,” the court’s judges said in a joint statement. “We must be worthy and withstand such a blow.”
The judges added that they would fully cooperate with investigations, and that the court must “act on the principle of self-purification, taking 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 Ukrinform, a state news agency.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine posted photos on Facebook that included piles of American dollars stacked on a table and a sofa. The agency’s chief, Semen Kryvonos, said a bribe was paid for ruling in favor of the Finance and Credit financial group, which is owned by a prominent businessman, according to Reuters.
The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office said on Telegram that it and the bureau had “caught the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a lawyer red-handed while receiving an illegal benefit.”
Corruption, and Ukraine’s long struggle against it, had mostly receded in the public’s attention after the Russian invasion last February, as Ukrainians rallied around the army and government at a time of national peril.
But this year, President Volodymyr Zelensky has retrained his focus on fighting corruption, aimed at maintaining Ukrainians’ trust in the wartime government after several officials were fired in January amid a major corruption scandal.
And as Ukraine seeks fast-track entry to the European Union, the country’s inability to suppress graft and corruption has concerned its Western allies.
Anastasia Kuznietsova and Matt Surman contributed reporting.