In early March 2022, the Ministry of Social Policy, headed by Maryna Lazebna, opened a humanitarian account to help Ukrainians who had lost their homes and livelihoods due to the war. The journalists analysed five organisations that, according to the official investigation, which was made available to Slidstvo.Info on condition of anonymity, received almost 164 million hryvnias from the Ministry of Social Policy. During the investigation, the journalists noticed that unrelated unions and foundations transferred money to the same companies, not a single well-known entrepreneur among them who could supply products in large volumes. In addition, not all recipients received humanitarian aid.
This is described in the investigation by Slidstvo.Info. The video has English subtitles.
PART 1. THE HUMANITARIAN SPECIAL ACCOUNT AND THEFT OF FUNDS
During the first months of the full-scale war, the humanitarian special account received over UAH 625 million. This money came from both Ukrainians and foreigners. It was supposed to be spent, in particular, on the needs of internally displaced people, including the purchase of food, hygiene products, medicines, etc.
In March 2022, the Ministry of Social Policy established the Commission on the Distribution of Funds for Assistance under Martial Law, which was to distribute UAH 625 million and control their spending. Initially, the Commission was headed by one deputy of the then-Minister Maryna Lazebna, Borys Lebedtsov, and later by another, Yevhen Kotyk.
Then the Commission receives requests for assistance from, for example, the city council — not directly, but through various foundations and unions. Among them are five organisations that have received almost UAH 164 million from the Ministry of Social Policy. These are the charitable foundations Vladyslaviy (formerly Dobra-Sprava) and Volia ta Hidnist (formerly Kira Denysivna), the National Association of Fuel Retailers, the All-Ukrainian Association of the Institute of Nursing of Ukraine, and the Transcarpathian Military and Patriotic Association Carpathian Sich.
Logically, these organisations were supposed to buy the goods from someone for ministerial money and deliver them to the victims. The investigation revealed that the funds from the unions and foundations were transferred to the accounts of the same companies.
In addition, Slidstvo.Info journalists learned that — in one case — some of the goods were purchased by organisations with humanitarian funds at significantly inflated prices, in the second case — they simply appropriated the purchased goods, and in the third case — they allegedly supplied products in huge volumes.
Interestingly, foundations with a proven track record, such as the Women’s Veterans Movement, did not receive funds from the Ministry of Social Policy, although they had asked for them, but obscure organisations without websites, with invalid mail and non-existent addresses did.
PART 2. KONOTOP CANNED FOOD
Konotop is located in the Sumy oblast. This region was de-occupied in early April 2022 and suffered from the Russian invasion. According to the list of recipients of the Ministry of Social Policy, humanitarian aid was provided to people who had evacuated here from the war zone.
Yuriy Pavlov, deputy mayor of Konotop, who was in charge of humanitarian aid at the time, says that the city received help from one of the five organisations that the Ministry of Social Policy had provided funds to.
However, apart from the signed food transfer and acceptance certificates, the official has not provided journalists with any evidence for a month — neither photo evidence nor a list of people who allegedly received the aid. The official adds that the foundation approached the city council on its own.
PART 3. CHANGE OF NAMES OF FOUNDATIONS AND A FAKE COMPANY DIRECTOR
Two charitable foundations, Vladyslaviy and Volya ta Hidnist (transl. — Freedom and Dignity), changed their names after receiving funds from the Ministry of Social Policy. The latter was supposed to supply humanitarian aid to Konotop.
Vladyslav Meliokhin, the head of the Vladyslaviy charity foundation, formerly called Dobra-Sprava, is associated with more than three hundred companies. Journalists asked him what he thought about the possibility that his foundation might be involved in the embezzlement of humanitarian funds.
“What kind of nonsense are you talking about, especially on the phone? That’s it, goodbye. I have nothing to talk to you about,” Vladyslav Meliokhin replied.
Antonina Volkotrub, an expert at the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, says that such manipulations with the name change may indicate that the current head of the organisation is disclaiming responsibility for what happened to the organisation before.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point these foundations are also closed down,” the expert adds.
Charitable foundations and organisations that received funds from the Ministry of Social Policy transferred them, in turn, to firms whose activities can be questionable — they have a wide range of activities. These companies were supposed to supply goods or provide services to customers.
The journalists learned that the NGO Transcarpathian Military and Patriotic Association “Carpathian Sich” transferred UAH 930 thousand to the company Relax Invest. Slidstvo.Info spoke to its head, Olena Stuchek. It turned out that the woman did not know about her real status as a director.
“I would tell you how we cooperated there. They registered a company for me, and then called me from there: to get out, I had to go and pay a considerable amount of money,” says Stuchek.
The woman says that it is possible that her name could have been used to register a new company.
The journalists also received a copy of a power of attorney from Stuchek addressed to Kyrylo Benderskyi, who is authorised to represent the woman in matters relating to the company. Slidstvo.Info contacted this man and he also knows nothing about this company or Olena Stuchek.
“There is a possibility that my name was chosen randomly, and I became the happy owner of some kind of power of attorney,” Benderskyi wrote in one of the messengers.
PART 4. ONE FIRST AID KIT FOR THE PRICE OF FOUR
The company headed by Olena Stuchek was not the only one to receive funds from one of these five organisations. Slidstvo.Info journalists analysed several other companies with legal addresses in Kyiv. However, they did not find offices at the place of registration.
It was not possible to contact two firms — Best Garlick and Inpavelresurs — which together received almost 44 million hryvnias for humanitarian aid. The journalists assume that the heads of these companies may be relatives — they have identical surnames and patronymics and are registered at the same address.
The company Inpavelresurs allegedly purchased goods from another company, Trade House Elite-Edvis. In total, this company received funds from three of the five organisations.
Earlier, TD Elite-Edvice had already been involved in criminal proceeding for embezzlement of public funds allocated for a project at the National Cancer Institute.
This time, the criminal proceedings on humanitarian aid state that the first aid kits supplied by TD Elite-Edvice actually cost a little over a thousand hryvnias each, but the fund received them at a price four times higher. The overpayment on first aid kits alone could reach UAH 3.5 million.
PART 5. THE OBERBAUMBRÜCKE BRIDGE IN BERLIN AND 24 MILLION HRYVNIAS
Mikoton-Trade received almost UAH 24 million from the Ministry of Social Policy through the charity fund Volya ta Hidnist. The money transfers took place in April 2022.
According to the official investigation, the head of the company, Mirra Yankovska, left for Germany on 17 April of the same year.
The journalists found Yankovska’s account on one of the messengers and wrote to her. However, the woman was reluctant to communicate and eventually deleted the dialogue and blocked Slidstvo.Info. After that, the journalists went to the company’s legal address. The concierge of the building assured them that she had never heard of such a company and that there was no such company in the building.
PART 6. FIFTY-ONE MILLION HRYVNIAS FOR FUEL, A HUSBAND AND A WIFE
Two other organisations received a total of UAH 86.5 million from the Ministry of Social Policy. On 18 May 2022, both of them changed their leaders. They became Valeria Chanysheva and Yevhen Chanyshev. The woman headed the Fuel Retail Association, and the man headed the Institute of Nursing.
On her Facebook page, Chanysheva states that she is married to Zheka Chanyshev. It appears that the heads of two completely different organisations may be married.
After the Ministry of Social Affairs made the transfer to these organisations, the funds were transferred through the chain to private company accounts.
Valeriia’s union transferred almost UAH 51 million for fuel to the Main Trade Group. This company, by the way, is one of the founders of the union.
Main Trade Group then buys fuel from two other companies. The fuel procurement chain does not end there. One of them buys fuel from two more companies.
Slidstvo.Info called these companies, and their representatives said they did not supply such volumes of fuel. Another supplier company confirmed its business relationship with Lux Oil Trade, but did not disclose the volume of supplies due to commercial confidentiality.
The legal address of Valeria Chanysheva’s company is located in the apartment of one of the Bila Tserkva panel buildings. No matter how many times journalists knocked, no one opened the door. Neighbours said that the apartment was occupied by a woman whose granddaughter got married and lives with her husband.
The journalists assumed that it might be Chanysheva and went to the place of residence of Yevhen Chanyshev. A woman named Larysa opened the door and introduced herself as Yevhen’s mother.
However, we did not manage to talk to Yevhen Chanyshev, the head of the NGO Institute of Nursing of Ukraine, as the woman who introduced herself as his mother said that he was now in Poland.
The Institute, by the way, received over UAH 22.5 million from the Ministry of Social Policy.
It was not possible to find the organisation at its legal address. Moreover, employees of the housing complex’s maintenance organisation claimed that such a building did not exist at all.
Eventually, the journalists managed to get through to Valeriia Chanysheva, the head of the National Association of Fuel Retailers, which received almost UAH 64 million from the Ministry of Social Policy.
“Send a request, and then we’ll talk. There is a 63rd amendment, according to which I may not testify against myself and my family,” Valeria replied in a phone call when asked about the fact that the union she heads is suspected of embezzling humanitarian funds.
According to the official investigation, almost a third of the fuel purchased for more than UAH 14 million was misappropriated by the Main Trade Group. The head of the company, Oleksandr Beskokotov, ignored the messages in the messenger and blocked journalists.
According to the investigation, the National Association of Fuel Retailers, headed by Valeriia Chanysheva, purchased modular petrol stations and equipment for allegedly UAH 13.7 million. In fact, the price was six times less, and the remaining funds — UAH 11.5 million — were taken by the association’s leaders.
PART 7. WHO RECEIVED THE HUMANITARIAN AID AND DID THEY?
The organisations run by the Chanyshevs were supposed to provide people with humanitarian aid, fuel, generators and modular petrol stations.
The councils and administrations of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Kharkiv regions asked for help for the population. Also, Olha Vasylevska-Smagliuk, a member of the Servant of the People party, who was elected as a single-seat candidate in one of the Kyiv region’s constituencies.
The Chanyshevs’ organisations reported that they had spent all the money and provided assistance.
Slidstvo.Info journalists contacted all those who asked for help to check whether it had actually reached the people. For example, the Bucha District Military Administration, in response to a journalistic request, said that they had no confirmation of receiving such assistance.
Slidstvo.Info also received a response from the Polissia village council in Kyiv region. The council said it could not provide any information because it was a secret of the pre-trial investigation. The article of criminal offence mentioned in the response is violated when humanitarian aid is illegally used to make a profit. According to journalists, the Polissia village council did not receive any aid.
The document obtained by Slidstvo.Info states that the Kharkiv City Council did not receive any assistance from the Institute of Nursing for the UAH 9.2 million allocated to it by the Ministry of Social Services.
PART 8. WHAT DOES THE MINISTRY OF SOCIAL POLICY SAY ABOUT THIS?
Slidstvo.Info journalists asked the Ministry of Social Policy how officials controlled the use of funds from the humanitarian account. The Ministry of Social Policy’s response to the request stated that officials studied the reports and contacted foundations and organisations only to ask about unused money and its return.
MP Olha Vasylevska-Smahliuk, who asked for help from one of the organisations in her constituency, said that she was advised to contact this union by the then head of the Ministry of Social Policy, Maryna Lazebna.
“I can tell you for sure that there was no embezzlement during my tenure, everything was under control. If the law enforcement agencies have any questions, they can contact me. I am in the country and have not left the country,” Maryna Lazebna told journalists.
The first chairman of the Commission, Borys Lebedtsov, also says that funds were provided only to those organisations that had letters of request from official bodies stating that they needed help and in what amount.
From the response of the Bucha District Military Administration, we learn that they asked for specific assistance from the already mentioned Institute of Nursing.
Attached to the response is a letter “On the expression of support” to the union in their endeavours.
“NGOs that could help were asked to sign memoranda of cooperation. Out of 100% of the organisations, maybe 5-8% helped,” says Mykola Lyashenko, former head of the Bucha district military administration.
Yevhen Kotyk, First Deputy Minister and second chairman of the Commission, believes that the Ministry of Social Policy has done the maximum within its powers and functions.
The then leadership of the Ministry of Social Policy claims that they do not know anything about the official investigation, which has been going on for more than a year, and have not communicated with law enforcement.
Slidstvo.Info journalists contacted law enforcement officials, who said that they were no longer investigating the criminal proceedings regarding humanitarian aid. According to the journalists, the humanitarian aid case is currently being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.
Since the law enforcement agencies first started investigating the humanitarian aid schemes, Yevhen Kotyk’s wife, Vitalina, has become the owner of a Toyota LAND CRUISER PRADO 150 made in 2022. Nowadays, such a car costs about 50-70 thousand dollars. Kotyk has worked in the civil service all his life. He says his wife sold her apartment to buy the car.
Minister Lazebna and her two deputies, Lebedtsov and Kotyk, who headed the Commission for the Distribution of Humanitarian Funds, resigned one after the other last summer.
The current leaders of the Ministry of Social Affairs report that they cannot say anything about the possible embezzlement of money, as it is not public information.