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Poroshenko Fires Close Ally Amid Smuggling Scandal

Oleh Hladkovskiy was first deputy chairman of the National Security and Defense Council.
Oleh Hladkovskiy was first deputy chairman of the National Security and Defense Council.

Ukraine's president has fired his close ally Oleh Hladkovskyy from the post of the first deputy chairman of the National Security and Defense Council amid allegations that Hladkovskyy's son was involved in smuggling spare parts of military equipment from Russia.

In a post to Twitter March 4, Petro Poroshenko wrote that Hladkovskyy was also fired from the post of the chief of the interministerial commission for policies on military and technical cooperation and export control.​

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Poroshenko's move comes a week after media outlet Bihus.Info's program Nashi Hroshi (Our Money) alleged that Hladkovskyy's son, Ihor, organized a ring to smuggle spare military-equipment parts from Russia in 2015, a year after Moscow seized Ukraine's Crimea region and threw its support behind militant pro-Russia separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The report alleged that state defense facilities purchased the smuggled spare parts from private companies linked to Ihor Hladkovskyy and his friends at highly inflated prices.

It claimed that Ukroboronprom, the state concern that supervises defense industry production facilities, knew the origin of the smuggled parts but agreed to buy them.

The report also alleged that Ihor Hladkovskyy and his two associates illegally earned at least 250 million hryvnyas ($9.2 million) by smuggling the items from Russia through three major private firms, one of which belonged to Poroshenko at the time.

Poroshenko, a pro-Western tycoon who came to power after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in early 2014, is trying to overcome a steep drop in public support in order to win reelection in the upcoming March 31 presidential poll.

A day after the investigative report was broadcast on YouTube on February 25, Poroshenko suspended Oleh Hladkovskyy from his post and two days later announced that a probe has been launched into the allegations.

The election comes amid persistent economic challenges in the country and an ongoing war in eastern Ukraine against Russia-backed separatists.

The latest survey conducted by the nongovernmental Rating Groups showed that 41-year-old comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy leads the election race with support of 25.1 percent of voters.

Poroshenko had 16.6 percent support, followed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko with 16.2 percent.

If none of 44 registered candidates wins 50 percent of the vote, as polls predict, the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff on April 21.

With reporting by Reuters
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