A massive scandal broke in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office on the afternoon of March 29.

A lawmaker leaked videos online that appeared to implicate Denys Yermak, the brother of Zelensky’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak, in corruption. 

The videos were published by Geo Leros, a member of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party in parliament and a former adviser to the president who recently had a falling out with Yermak, and by an anonymous channel on the Telegram messenger application.

The videos feature a person who looks like Denys Yermak meeting with people seeking to be appointed to high-level positions in the government or state-owned companies. They ask him for help and discuss payment for his services.

Denys Yermak couldn’t be reached for comment. Andriy Yermak said that his brother is “an honest man” and that he will ask the State Security Service of Ukraine and the State Investigation Bureau to look into recordings and find out “who ordered them made.” Both agencies are de facto subordinated to Zelensky, who appoints their heads.


Andriy Yermak didn’t deny that it was his brother in the videos. He also promised to sue Leros for publishing the recordings.

Leros, in turn, said that he was sending the recordings, along with a crime report, to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, an independent agency investigating high-level corruption.

Leros didn’t explain how he obtained the tapes of the meetings. While he only published several short videos, he passed all the recordings he obtained to journalists of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s investigative team, Schemes. Schemes reported that they received “dozens of hours of video” from Leros.

In the videos, a person resembling Denys Yermak and another man, who appears to be his aide, meet with unnamed people who want to be appointed public servants, or to have their associates appointed, to posts in the state railway monopoly, the fiscal service, and the Ministry of Infrastructure, among other state agencies.

A man resembling Denys Yermak, the younger brother of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak, is featured in leaked recordings that appear to implicate him in selling high-level state positions. (Facebook/Geo Leros)

The date stamps on the videos indicate that they were filmed between August and October 2019. At that time, Andriy Yermak served as Zelensky’s aide and was responsible for leading the president’s communications with foreign leaders, including with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was appointed chief of staff on Feb. 11, replacing Andriy Bohdan, reportedly after months of quarreling with him.

Zelensky didn’t comment on the recordings as of late on March 29.

Who is Denys Yermak

Denys Yermak, a younger brother of Zelensky’s chief of staff, chairs the Ukrainian Bureau of National Development, an NGO registered in 2019.

Denys co-founded it with Serhii Shumsky, an aide to his brother Andriy. A person who looks like Shumsky is seen in the leaked recordings. While Denys Yermak is more careful with words, the person resembling Shumsky talks openly about bribes and kickbacks.

Denys Yermak is no stranger to the presidential office. He was spotted visiting it in December. Back then, he told journalists from RFE/RL that he was “conducting scientific research” and wanted to pitch his brother “an idea” that he had.


Yermak’s NGO, the Ukrainian Bureau of National Development, is dedicated to helping Ukraine in implementing crucial reforms, its website says. According to the site, the organization acts as intermediary helping authors of reformist ideas to prepare their pitches for the government. However, this is essentially all the information there is — the organization’s website is nearly empty. There is no information about the NGO’s work in the public domain.

But the NGO is mentioned in one of the videos.

Schemes reported that one video they obtained but didn’t yet publish shows Denys Yermak and Shumsky discussing creating an NGO to “have an office” and a way to receive donations.

Although Denys Yermak was little known in Ukraine before the recordings were published, he had made headlines once before.

In September 2019, Zelensky’s aides, including Andriy Yermak, met with Kurt Volker, then the U.S. president’s special envoy to Ukraine, and Ambassador Bill Taylor, a former U.S. charge d’affairs in Ukraine. At that meeting, according to Taylor’s testimony in the U.S. Congress, Yermak showed a photograph of his brother, who “had been killed or wounded in the east (the front line of the war in Donbas).”


Yermak was then criticized in Ukraine for manipulating his brother’s state of health. Denys Yermak, who spent some time as a volunteer soldier in eastern Ukraine, suffered from post-concussion syndrome but was otherwise safe.

What’s in the videos

The majority of the meetings shown in the videos take place in restaurants. Some conversations take place on the street.

They were secretly recorded by one of the participants. Schemes identified him as a Kharkiv businessman Dmytro Shtanko. He could not be reached for comment.

None of the videos show Denys Yermak accepting a bribe in cash or explicitly soliciting one. The money is mostly discussed by Shumsky, who appears to be his aide.

One video, which wasn’t published but was obtained by Schemes from Leros, reportedly shows Shumsky talking about helping an Iranian company win construction tenders in Ukraine.

“They’re interested in big money. Twenty million at least, better 50 million. Denys will guarantee their victory in the tender. Then we split the money in three parts,” Shumsky says in the video, according to Schemes.

There are also videos of Denys Yermak interviewing candidates for governors, Schemes reported. Another meeting depicts him interviewing a candidate for a position in Kyiv’s customs office.

One of the videos that was published shows a few men asking Denys Yermak to help an unnamed woman get the position she desires.


“There is one beautiful girl. She wants to chair either TRK Ukraina or Expocenter,” says an unidentified person, who appears to be filming the meeting. The person speaking appears to have confused TRK Ukraina, a TV channel, with Palace Ukraine, a concert hall overseen by the presidential administration.

“If the girl is pretty and she knows things then it is quite easy, but we will not deal with this. We will convey it to other people,” a man resembling Denys Yermak replies.

Another person is heard asking: “Does she do blow jobs?”

“That I don’t know yet,” says the person recording the video. The men burst into laughter as Denys Yermak comments: “What a failure.”

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