Analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) say that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky embezzled at least $400 million from U.S. funds provided to Ukraine last year, according to the latest report from award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh.
In late February, the Council on Foreign Relations showed that since the beginning of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Biden administration and congress have directed more than $75 billion in assistance to Ukraine.
According to sources who spoke with Hersh on the condition they not be named, Zelensky has been skimming hundreds of millions of dollars of that money, which one expert says makes the level of corruption in Kiev nearly on par with that of the war in Afghanistan, telling Hersh, “although there will be no professional audit reports emerging from the Ukraine.”
While the U.S. has been seeking to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by banning imports of Russian oil and using sanctions and other means to choke off Russian energy — which President Joe Biden has called “the main artery of Russia’s economy” — Ukrainian officials have been using U.S. aid to buy fuel directly from Russia, according to Hersh’s report.
“Zelensky’s been buying discount diesel from the Russians,” an American intelligence official told him. “And who’s paying for the gas and oil? We are. Putin and his oligarchs are making millions” on it.
In January, the issue of corruption was raised during a meeting in Kiev where CIA director William Burns met with Zelensky, which an intelligence official said was out of a 1950s mob movie.
Burns presented a list of 35 generals and Ukrainian officials whose corruption was known to the CIA and U.S. authorities. Burns told Zelensky that senior Ukrainian officials were angry over what they perceived to be Zelensky’s greed because he “was taking a larger share of the skim money than was going to the generals,” Hersh reported.
Zelensky responded by firing ten of the “most ostentatious officials on the list,” while essentially doing nothing else, according to the report. “The ten he got rid of were brazenly bragging about the money they had—driving around Kiev in their new Mercedes,” the intelligence official told Hersh.
Other reporting confirmed that Zelensky fired nine top officials in January, followed by another dismissal in February.
A trove of U.S. military documents recently leaked online show that Western nations have had dozens of special forces operators deployed to Ukraine, including 14 from the U.S. But, according to Hersh’s sources, the Biden administration has also deployed brigades from both the 82nd Airborne Division, and 101st Airborne Division to Poland within just a few miles of the Ukrainian border. The current boots-on-the-ground troop total could exceed 20,000.
Hersh’s source says there is “no evidence that any senior official in the White House really knows what’s going on in the 82nd and 101st.”
According to Hersh’s account, the Biden administration is in total disarray, burdened by the “strident ideology and lack of political skill shown by Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.”
“They have no experience, judgment, and moral integrity. They just tell lies, make up stories. Diplomatic deniability is something else,” the intelligence official told Hersh.
As of April 14, Russia’s oil exports have returned to levels they were at prior to the invasion of Ukraine, despite Western sanctions and efforts by the Biden administration.