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Ukraine restricts official trips after scandal


Jan 28, 2023

The move comes after President Zelensky’s party expelled a MP over Thailand beach video

The government in Kiev on Friday issued a decree sharply limiting the scope of international travel for Ukrainian officials, after President Vladimir Zelensky’s party expelled a lawmaker over social media posts showing him living it up in Southeast Asia.

Members of the legislature, prosecutors, judges, members of local governments and other public servants can cross the border only on official business, for medical reasons, or to attend the funerals of immediate family, Prime Minister Denis Shmigal has announced. 

Single mothers or fathers still need government permission to visit underage children living abroad. A letter from the Ministry of Health is required to accompany children for medical treatment outside Ukraine, while the State Border Service needs to issue one to attend a funeral of someone “in the first degree of kinship,” according to the new rules. 

Zelensky raised the issue himself in an address to the nation on Thursday evening, saying that officials “must comply with the relevant decision of the National Security and Defense Council, which you have all seen.”

“There will be no other trips abroad by officials or MPs in wartime,” he warned, adding he was repeating the rule “for those hard of hearing.”

Earlier on Thursday, Zelensky’s party ‘Servant of the People’ voted to expel MP Nikolai Tyshchenko, after he posted a video on Facebook showing himself enjoying the beaches of Thailand. The video has since been deleted, with Tyshchenko claiming it dated back to 2019.

According to Ukrainian media, Tyshchenko defended himself by claiming he was doing very important work, meeting with “our partners” and signing “an important diplomatic agreement to support Ukraine.”

He also said he was just following parliamentary instructions to prioritize relations with Asian countries, as the co-chair of the Vietnam friendship caucus. Although expelled from the ruling party, Tyshchenko remained an MP and retains parliamentary immunity.

Prior to cracking down on travel, Zelensky also fired a number of senior officials, including his own deputy chief of staff, deputy defense minister, deputy prosecutor general, and governors of four frontline regions. Several other high-ranking officials were ousted or arrested on charges of corruption or embezzlement.