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© Drew Angerer/Images North America/Getty ImagesUkraine President Volodymyr Zelensky flanked by US congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer
A large-scale embezzlement scheme has been revealed amid Kiev's struggle to secure more aid in its conflict with Russia.

Republicans in the US Congress have slammed Ukraine after the country's Security Service (SBU) uncovered an embezzlement scheme in which top officials are implicated. This comes as Kiev attempts to secure more funding from its supporters for its conflict with Russia despite growing reluctance in the West.

The SBU announced on Saturday a major embezzlement scheme involved high-ranking Defense Ministry officials and a private arms manufacturer. Five suspects attempted to steal 1.5 billion hryvnia (around $39.6 million) in state funds intended for mortar shells for Ukrainian troops, according to the security service.

The announcement comes as Republicans in the US Congress push back against President Joe Biden's efforts to send a further $60 billion aid package to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the American Conservative (TAC) magazine published an article in which several congresspeople were asked to comment on the matter.

In a phone interview with TAC, Republican Matt Rosendale of Montana said:
"Just a few years ago, the only thing that we knew about Ukraine was that it was the most corrupt country that anyone had ever heard of... To even try to believe and hope that maybe the funding is being managed better now than it was previously is laughable."
Calling for a full audit of the funds sent to Ukraine, Republican Lauren Boebert of Colorado said:
"I will not support providing Ukraine with another penny. The US should worry about securing our own borders. Clearly, the money designated for Ukraine isn't going where it was supposed to."
Republican Congressman Eli Crane of Arizona told TAC that the latest instance of fraud "is likely just the tip of the iceberg." In a written statement, Crane questioned if we can expect:
"A full and clean accounting from a country whose leader dissolved rival political parties and aims to suspend national elections?"
In September, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov was dismissed from his post over graft allegations. His successor, Rustem Umerov, announced earlier this month that a probe he had initiated revealed $262 million in theft-related costs in weapons procurement.

Moscow has condemned Western military support for Ukraine, arguing that pumping the country with more weapons will only prolong the fighting and cause more bloodshed.