Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating the embezzlement of millions of dollars worth of funds meant for the construction of a border wall on the country’s border with Russia. Speaking to Sputnik, Ukraine watcher Roman Manekin said that the project was never meant as anything other than a way for corrupt officials to get their hands on state funds.
Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the theft of over 98 million hryvnia (about $3.8 million US) in funds meant for the construction of a border ‘wall’ on the eastern border with Russia, the agency’s press service has reported. Investigators said that they had seized evidence confirming the involvement of border service employees in the embezzlement.
Kiev started work on the ‘wall’ (really just a glorified fence), also nicknamed the ‘European Rampart’, on Ukraine’s border with Russia in 2014. Once completed, the layered defense system was meant to feature 1,900 km worth of fencing, observation towers, signaling, communications and surveillance systems, remote control combat modules, anti-tank ditches and fortifications.
The project was meant to be completed in four years, and over 4.1 billion hryvnia (about $160 million) was to be earmarked for the project. Subsequently, however, financing has been cut in half. Earlier this year, officials in Kharkov region, where a large chunk of the fence was to be built, revealed that construction had been halted altogether due to lack of funds.
Last month, Ukrainian lawmakers admitted that authorities had failed to make progress on the construction of their border wall. Lawmaker Mustafa Nyem described the project as ‘mythical’.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik, political observer and Ukrainian politics expert Roman Manekin said that the wall project was conceived from the very start as a means for crooked officials to enrich themselves. There is still plenty of money left for Ukraine’s “corruption machine” to plunder, including via the great ‘European Rampart’ project, he warned.
“As for the very idea of building a wall across such an expansive space, where there are rivers, a sea border – it was an impossibility from the very beginning,” the observer added. “There were no prospects for its construction…The project itself was created as a scheme – first to embezzle budgetary funds, and then to steal funds given by donor countries. This is a semi-legal or even outright illegal get-rich scheme.”