Ukraine corruption scandal ousts top officials during war
By Andrew Meldrum in Kyiv
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Several senior Ukrainian officials, including five front-line governors, lost their jobs Tuesday in a corruption scandal plaguing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government as it grapples with the nearly 11-month-old Russian invasion.
Ukraine’s biggest government shake-up since the war began came as Poland formally requested permission from Germany to transfer a modest number of its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany builds the high-tech armor, and Warsaw needs Berlin’s permission to send them to a non-NATO country.
Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by graft, and the new allegations come as Western allies are channeling billions of dollars to help Kyiv fight against Moscow.
Officials in several countries, including the United States, have demanded more accountability for the aid, given Ukraine’s rampant corruption. While Zelenskyy and his aides portray the resignations and firings as proof of their efforts to crack down on graft, the wartime scandal could play into Moscow’s political attacks on the leadership in Kyiv.
The shake-up even touched Zelenskyy’s office. Its deputy head, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, prominent for his frequent battlefield updates, quit as the president pledged to address allegations of graft — including some related to military spending — that embarrassed authorities and could slow Ukraine’s efforts to join the European Union and NATO.
Tymoshenko asked to be relieved of his duties, according to an online decree signed by Zelenskyy and Tymoshenko’s own social media posts. Neither cited a reason for the resignation.
Deputy Defense Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov also resigned, local media reported, alleging his departure was linked to a scandal involving the purchase of food for Ukraine’s armed forces. Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko also quit.
In all, four deputy ministers and five governors of provinces on the war’s front line were set to leave their posts, the country’s cabinet secretary said on the Telegram messaging app.
Authorities did not announce any criminal charges against the outgoing officials. There was no immediate explanation.
The departures thinned government ranks already diminished by the deaths of Ukraine’s interior minister, who oversaw Ukraine’s police and emergency services, and others in the ministry’s leadership in a helicopter crash last week.
Tymoshenko joined the presidential office in 2019, after working on Zelenskyy’s media and creative content strategy during his presidential campaign.
He was under investigation in connection with his personal use of luxury cars and was among officials a National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine investigator linked in September to the embezzlement of humanitarian aid worth more than $7 million earmarked for the southern Zaporizhzhia region. He has denied all the allegations.
On Sunday, a deputy minister at the infrastructure ministry, Vasyl Lozynsky, was fired for alleged participation in a network embezzling budget funds. Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency detained him while he was receiving a $400,000 bribe for helping to fix contracts for restoring facilities battered by Russian missile strikes, according to Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.
In his nightly video address Sunday, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s focus on the Russian invasion would not stop his government from tackling corruption, pledging: “There will be no return to what used to be in the past.”
Analysts say his message was that corruption won’t be tolerated.
“It’s very hard to save the country when there’s a lot of corruption,” Andrii Borovyk, the executive director of Transparency International Ukraine, a nonprofit organization that fights corruption, told The Associated Press.
Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told AP the shake-up was “intended to remind officials of the entire (power) vertical that the authorities plan to continue to fight corruption in Ukraine, especially during the war, when literally everything in the country is in short supply.”
Fesenko, head of the Kyiv-based Penta Center independent think tank, said Ukrainian authorities and Western officials couldn’t simply “turn a blind eye on latest scandals.” He said the corruption involved supplies for the army so the shake-up was “intended to calm Western partners and show Brussels and Washington that their aid is being used effectively.”
Transparency International, in its 2021 report on worldwide corruption, ranked Ukraine 122 out of 180 countries, with 180 representing the most corrupt. Russia ranked 136.
Entrenched corruption long has made foreign investors and governments wary of doing business with Ukraine. Allegations by Ukraine’s journalists and nonprofits about corruption at high levels of government, in courts and in business have lingered under Zelenskyy, despite a proliferation of anti-corruption panels and measures, according to a U.S. State Department 2020 country report.
A major corruption scandal could endanger the tens of billions of dollars the U.S. and its allies are pouring into Ukraine to keep Ukraine’s fighters armed, civil servants paid and the lights on. It could risk sinking what so far has been bipartisan popular and political support for Ukraine from the United States.
“We welcome the quick action that President Zelenskyy is taking in this case, as well as the effective action of Ukraine’s anti-corruption institutions, civil society, and media, to ensure effective monitoring and accountability of public procurement and to hold those in positions of public trust to account,” the White House National Security Council said in a statement. “We will continue to support Ukraine as it works to implement important anti-corruption reforms.”
Last June, the EU agreed to put Ukraine on a path toward membership in the bloc. In order to join, countries must meet economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles.
Ukraine has applied to join NATO, too, but the military alliance is not about to offer an invitation, because of the country’s contested borders, defense establishment shortcomings and, in part, its corruption issues.
Meanwhile, the delivery of an expected 14 Leopard tanks from Poland appeared to be a foregone conclusion, with its timing the main outstanding question.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Sunday that Berlin wouldn’t seek to stop Poland providing the versatile tanks to Kyiv if it asked, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Tuesday the Poles — and other Western allies he didn’t identify — are already training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland on the Leopards.
German officials confirmed to the dpa news agency they had received the Polish application and said it would be assessed “with due urgency.”
Also on Tuesday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto suggested his country may consider joining NATO without neighboring Sweden if Turkey continues to block their joint bid to enter the military alliance. Although he later backpedaled, his comments were the first time a leading government official in either Nordic country appeared to raise doubts about becoming NATO members together while the alliance is seeking to present a united front to counter Russia’s invasion.
Sweden and Finland rushed to apply for NATO membership following Moscow’s invasion, abandoning long-standing nonalignment policy. Their accession needs the approval of all existing NATO members, including Turkey, which has so far blocked the expansion, saying Sweden in particular needs to crack down on exiled Kurdish militants and their sympathizers.
In other developments:
Ukraine’s presidential office said at least five civilians were killed and seven others were wounded over the previous 24 hours. One Russian rocket hit a school in eastern Ukraine, killing one person, Donetsk region Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
Russian forces shelled nine towns and villages in the northern Sumy region, which borders Russia, hitting a house where a woman was killed and three other people were wounded, Gov. Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said on Telegram.
Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington contributed.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Canadian Energy Centre
Mexico leapfrogging Canada on LNG and six other global oil and gas megaprojects
By Deborah Jaremko of the Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.
Major investments in countries like the United States, Norway, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are being made to meet world demand
New major oil and gas megaprojects around the world are proceeding amid concern about underinvestment in conventional energy leading to painful supply shortages.
“The energy future must be secure and affordable, as well as sustainable,” said Daniel Yergin, vice-chairman of S&P Global, earlier this year.
“Adequate investment that avoids shortages and price spikes, and the economic hardship and social turbulence that they bring, is essential to that future.”
Even if oil and gas demand growth slows, a cumulative $4.9 trillion will be needed between 2023 and 2030 to prevent a supply shortfall, according to a report by the International Energy Forum and S&P Global Commodity Insights.
Major investments in countries like the United States, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Mexico are being made to meet world demand.
Meanwhile, due to regulatory uncertainty and concerns over proposed policies like an emissions cap for oil and gas production, Canada’s vast resources – produced with among the world’s highest standards for environmental protection and social progress – are being left behind.
Here’s a look at just a handful of global oil and gas megaprojects, listed in rising order of development cost.
Mexico: Altamira LNG
New Fortress Energy
Mexico is leapfrogging over Canada to become an LNG exporter.
While Canada’s first LNG export project is expected to start operating in 2025, Mexico’s could come online this August – less than 10 months after Mexico’s government finalized a deal with U.S.-based New Fortress Energy to make it happen.
While relatively small at 1.4 million tonnes of LNG per year (LNG Canada’s first phase will have capacity of 14 million tonnes per year), under Mexico’s agreement the Altamira site is to become an LNG hub.
New Fortress Energy is to deploy multiple same-sized floating LNG units to produce LNG from natural gas transported through TC Energy’s Sur de Texas-Tuxpan pipeline.
An existing LNG import terminal at Altamira is also expected to be converted into a 2.8-million-tonne-per-year export facility.
United States: Willow Oil Project
The U.S. government granted approval this March for the giant Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope to proceed.
The project, owned by ConocoPhillips, is designed to produce 180,000 barrels per day at peak and operate for 30 years. It includes a processing facility, operations centre, and three drilling sites.
The Willow leases are inside the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, which was established in 1923 as an emergency oil supply for the U.S. Navy. It is now administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Willow would occupy about 385 acres (around half the area of Central Park in New York City) in the northeast portion of the 23-million-acre reserve. It is expected to deliver nearly US$9 billion in government revenue, creating about 2,500 jobs during construction and 300 long-term positions.
ConocoPhillips has yet to make a final investment decision, but is anticipating starting production in 2029, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
United States: Golden Pass LNG
QatarEnergy, Exxon Mobil
Golden Pass LNG is one of four natural gas export terminals under construction on the U.S. Gulf Coast as the United States continues to build its platform as an LNG powerhouse.
With about 90 million tonnes per year of LNG export capacity today, analysts with Wood Mackenzie expect that if current momentum continues, another 190 million tonnes per year could come online by the end of this decade.
The US$10-billion Golden Pass project owned by QatarEnergy and Exxon Mobil will have three production trains with total export capacity of about 18 million tonnes of LNG per year.
The U.S. began exporting LNG in 2016 and has since built more LNG capacity than anywhere else in the world, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
First LNG exports from Golden Pass are planned for 2024.
Norway: Njord Field Restart
Wintershall Dea, Equinor, Neptune Energy
Norway has officially reopened a major offshore oil and gas field, with the goal to extend its life beyond 2040 and double its total production.
Nearly US$30 billion in upgrades to the Njord project’s production platform and offloading vessel started in 2016, after nearly 20 years of operations. It was originally only expected to run until 2013, but improvements in recovery technology have opened the door to accessing substantially more resources.
Production restarted in December 2022, just in time to help address Europe’s energy crisis.
“With the war in Ukraine, the export of Norwegian oil and gas to Europe has never been more important than now. Reopening Njord contributes to Norway remaining a stable supplier of gas to Europe for many years to come,” Norway’s oil and energy minister Terje Aasland said in a statement.
The project will drill 10 new wells and tie in two new subsea oil and gas fields, with the work expected to add approximately 250 million barrels of oil equivalent to the European market. Partial electrification of equipment is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Qatar: North Field East LNG expansion
Qatar Energy, Shell, TotalEnergies, Eni, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Sinopec
The largest LNG project ever built is underway in Qatar.
State-owned QatarEnergy’s US$29 billion North Field East Expansion will increase the country’s LNG export capacity to 110 million tonnes per year, from 77 million tonnes per year today. Startup is planned in 2025.
A planned second phase of the project will further increase capacity to 126 million tonnes per year.
World LNG demand reached a record 409 million tonnes in 2022, according to data provider Revintiv. It’s expected to rise to over 700 million tonnes by 2040, according to Shell’s most recent industry outlook.
Saudi Arabia: Jafurah Gas Project
State-owned Saudi Aramco is moving ahead with development of the massive Jafurah gas project, which it says will help meet growing energy demand and provide feedstock for hydrogen production.
First gas from the $110-billion project is expected in 2025, rising to reach two billion cubic feet per day by 2030. That’s about one-third the volume of all the natural gas produced in British Columbia. Saudi Aramco produced 10.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2022, or more than half the gas produced in Canada.
Last year the company started construction work on the gas processing facility that is the anchor of the Jafurah project. Aramco is reportedly in talkswith potential partners to back the US$110 billion development.
Russia: Vostok Oil
Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft continues to barrel ahead with the massive Vostok oil project in the country’s arctic, which Rosneft calls the largest investment in the world.
The US$170 billion project will use the Northern Sea Route to export about 600,000 barrels per day by 2024. Production is expected to increase to two million barrels per day after the second phase. For comparison, Canada’s entire oil sands industry produces about three million barrels per day.
The main problem the energy industry faces is global underinvestment in conventional sources, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said earlier this year. He stressed the importance of Vostok’s oil supply for growing Asian economies.
“Vostok Oil project will provide long-term, reliable, and guaranteed energy supplies,” Sechin said.
Two new icebreaker vessels recently helped deliver 4,600 tonnes of cargo including oil pipes for the project to the arctic development sites, the Barents Observer reported.
WHO’s Global Digital Health Certification Network
From the youtube channel of Dr. John Campbell
With notes from the World Health Organization website, Dr. John Campbell explains the WHO’s Global Digital Health Certification Network.
Dr. John Campbell’s Presentation notes:
WHO’s Global Digital Health Certification Network https://www.who.int/initiatives/globa…
WHO has established the Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN). Open-source platform, built on robust & transparent standards, that establishes the first building block of digital public health infrastructure, for developing a wide range of digital products, for strengthening pandemic preparedness
Background Member States used digital COVID-19 test and vaccine certificates As the directing and coordinating authority on international health work, at the onset of the pandemic, WHO engaged with all WHO Regions to define overall guidance for such certificates and published the Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates
https://www.who.int/publications/i/it… https://www.who.int/publications/i/it… there is a recognition of an existing gap, and continued need for a global mechanism, that can support bilateral verification of the provenance of health documents
The GDHCN may include Digitisation of the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, verification of prescriptions across borders
International Patient Summary Verification of vaccination certificates within and across borders Certification of public health professionals (through WHO Academy) Expanding such digital solutions will be essential to deliver better health for people across the globe.
The GDHCN has been designed to be interoperable with other existing regional networks EU-WHO digital partnership https://www.who.int/news/item/05-06-2… • LIVE: WHO and @EU… https://commission.europa.eu/strategy… WHO and the European Commission have agreed to partner in digital health.
This partnership will work to technically develop the WHO system with a staged approach to cover additional use cases, In June 2023, WHO will take up the European Union (EU) system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system, that will help facilitate global mobility
This is the first building block of the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN)
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus WHO aims to offer all WHO Member States access, On the principles of equity, innovation, transparency and data protection and privacy Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
This partnership is an important step for the digital action plan of the EU Global Health Strategy, we contribute to digital health standards and interoperability globally
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market The EU certificate … has also facilitated international travel and tourism I am pleased that the WHO will build on …. cutting-edge technology … to create a global tool against future pandemics
One of the key elements in the European Union’s work against the COVID-19 pandemic has been digital COVID-19 certificates. WHO will facilitate this process globally under its own structure … allow the world to benefit from convergence of digital certificates. Expanding such digital solutions will be essential to deliver better health for citizens across the globe.
The WHO and the European Commission will work together to encourage maximum global uptake and participation.
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