Friday, June 18, 2021

Ukraine: Brother of President Zelensky’s Chief of Staff implicated in corruption scandal


A massive scandal broke in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office on the afternoon of March 29.

A lawmaker leaked videos online that appeared to implicate Denys Yermak, the brother of Zelensky’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak, in corruption.

The videos were published by Geo Leros, a member of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party in parliament and a former adviser to the president who recently had a falling out with Yermak, and by an anonymous channel on the Telegram messenger application.

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The videos feature a person who looks like Denys Yermak meeting with people seeking to be appointed to high-level positions in the government or state-owned companies. They ask him for help and discuss payment for his services.

Denys Yermak couldn’t be reached for comment. Andriy Yermak said that his brother is “an honest man” and that he will ask the State Security Service of Ukraine and the State Investigation Bureau to look into recordings and find out “who ordered them made.” Both agencies are de facto subordinated to Zelensky, who appoints their heads.

Andriy Yermak didn’t deny that it was his brother in the videos. He also promised to sue Leros for publishing the recordings.

Leros, in turn, said that he was sending the recordings, along with a crime report, to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, an independent agency investigating high-level corruption.

Leros didn’t explain how he obtained the tapes of the meetings. While he only published several short videos, he passed all the recordings he obtained to journalists of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s investigative team, Schemes. Schemes reported that they received “dozens of hours of video” from Leros.

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In the videos, a person resembling Denys Yermak and another man, who appears to be his aide, meet with unnamed people who want to be appointed public servants, or to have their associates appointed, to posts in the state railway monopoly, the fiscal service, and the Ministry of Infrastructure, among other state agencies.

The date stamps on the videos indicate that they were filmed between August and October 2019. At that time, Andriy Yermak served as Zelensky’s aide and was responsible for leading the president’s communications with foreign leaders, including with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was appointed chief of staff on Feb. 11, replacing Andriy Bohdan, reportedly after months of quarreling with him.

Zelensky didn’t comment on the recordings as of late on March 29.

Who is Denys Yermak?

Denys Yermak, a younger brother of Zelensky’s chief of staff, chairs the Ukrainian Bureau of National Development, an NGO registered in 2019.

Denys co-founded it with Serhii Shumsky, an aide to his brother Andriy. A person who looks like Shumsky is seen in the leaked recordings. While Denys Yermak is more careful with words, the person resembling Shumsky talks openly about bribes and kickbacks.

Denys Yermak is no stranger to the presidential office. He was spotted visiting it in December. Back then, he told journalists from RFE/RL that he was “conducting scientific research” and wanted to pitch his brother “an idea” that he had.

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