Ukraine's Zelenskiy decries corruption in military medical exemptions

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(Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy decried on Wednesday what he described as systematic corruption in medical exemptions to people avoiding military service, saying the system was subject to bribes and mass departures abroad.

Ukraine has made a crackdown on graft a priority as it presses on with a counteroffensive 18 months into Russia's invasion. Uprooting corruption is also a key element in the country's bid to join the European Union.

Zelenskiy said the National Security and Defence Council had considered data showing the extent of false exemptions, bribe-taking and flight abroad since the February 2022 invasion. The investigation of dubious medical exemptions was still being conducted, he said.

"There are examples of regions where the number of exemptions from military service due to medical commission decisions has increased tenfold since February last year," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

"It is absolutely clear what sort of decisions these are. Corrupt decisions."

He said the investigation had exposed corrupt practices in different regions and by officials in different positions, involving bribes ranging from $3,000 to $15,000.

Zelenskiy said a separate analysis was needed to determine the numbers of people who had fled abroad, largely on the basis of medical commission decisions.

"We are talking about at least thousands of individuals," he said.

Zelenskiy this month dismissed all the heads of Ukraine's regional army recruitment centres.

He said more than 100 criminal cases had been opened in a wide-ranging probe launched after a graft scandal at a recruitment office in southern Odesa region last month.

(Reporting by Oleksander Kolzhukar and Ron Popeski; Editing by Stephen Coates)