'We Were Shocked': Top Ukraine Official Arrested Over Bribery

© Sputnik / Alexei Furman / Go to the photo bankA view of the sculpture "Ukraine" on Troitskaya Square, Kiev.
A view of the sculpture Ukraine on Troitskaya Square, Kiev. - Sputnik International
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Ukraine’s deputy health minister Roman Vasylyshyn was arrested on Thursday over bribery allegations, becoming the country’s first high-ranking official to be accused of corruption since the April 2015 election of a new cabinet.

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Vasylyshyn was caught receiving money "from sick patients for operations" in Kiev’s state-run hospital, the chief of Ukraine's State Security Service, Vasyl Gritsak, announced Friday.

"We were shocked by what the deputy health minister was doing," Gritsak declared to reporters. “During his detention and as a result of searches, we confiscated more than $50,000 (45,200 euros) and 320,000 hryvnias ($12,900)."

The security service revealed that Vasylyshyn received up to 100,000 hryvnas ($4,000) weekly, providing people with essential medical assistance that is presumed to be free. Investigators also noted that the kickbacks included all of the personnel at the Kiev medical center.

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Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, a long-time friend of current Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, reacted to the arrest with a fierce post on Facebook: "I would like to stress that not a single corrupt official will be able to avoid prosecution."

Vasylyshyn, however, denies the accusations, claiming a lack of evidence.

“They talked about a sum of 1.6 million hryvnas ($64.4 thousand). There were 10 to 20 thousand [hryvnas] found in my house in addition to 30 [hryvnas] thousand that my daughter had. The rest of the money was kept by the other arrestant,” Ria Novosti Ukraine cited the chairman as saying.

The official also pledged to prove his innocence and return to office, “just to show the accusations were not true.”

The official has been placed in custody for two months with a 2.8 million-hryvna ($112.7 thousand) bail, 112 Ukraina news agency reported. Under Ukrainian law, he faces a jail term of up to twelve years if found guilty.

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