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article imageUkraine leader vows to launch anti-corruption court

By Dmitry ZAKS (AFP)     Oct 20, 2017 in World

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko vowed on Friday to launch an anti-corruption court demanded by Kiev's Western allies and protesters camped out in a tent city near parliament.

Poroshenko's firmest commitment yet to the new judiciary body comes against the backdrop of the first sustained wave of anti-government protests since Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution.

The Ukrainian leader left Kiev on Friday to meet soldiers and reaffirm his support for institutional changes he had promised when elected president in place of the ousted Russian-backed regime of Viktor Yanukovych.

Poroshenko revealed that next year's draft budget already earmarks money for an anti-corruption court.

"This testifies to the state leadership's firm commitment to launching this vitally important judicial body next year," Poroshenko said.

"The way I see and plan it, the timeline for the new court's creation foresees the president's signature on an anti-corruption law by the end of the year," Poroshenko said.

"This is completely feasible."

There was no immediate response to Poroshenko's promise from Ukraine's creditors at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or protest leaders in Kiev.

- 'Playing IMF for a fool' -

Poroshenko's critics and some Western economists have accused the Ukrainian leader of deliberately dragging his feet over the court's creation in order to preserve the current political order.

He has previously said that no special judiciary body aimed at tackling state corruption could be set up until 2020.

"Is Poroshenko playing the IMF and markets for a fool?" London-based emerging markets economist Timothy Ash asked in an article published in the English-language Kyiv Post weekly.

"Not sure what the IMF can do when (Ukraine) is intent on just going through the motions, trying to keep the IMF and markets warm, but stalling on pushing on with reform," Ash wrote.

But Poroshenko was given a jolt when nearly 5,000 protesters rallied outside parliament on Tuesday demanding the court's immediate introduction and the passage of a law stripping members of parliament of their immunity from prosecution.

Poroshenko branded the activists as "provocateurs who were thirsting for blood instead of reforms".

"They want to destabilise the situation in Ukraine," Poroshenko said in televised remarks.

But deputies agreed on Thursday to proceed with two bills eliminating their legal protection. The measures must still undergo a Constitutional Court review a cannot be introduced before 2018.

Lawmakers are yet to address the anti-constitutional court legislation and are not due to convene again until November 7.

The IMF has called the court's launch a "benchmark" of Ukraine's progress toward Western standards that would help ease the release of future loans.

Ukraine ranked 131st out of 176 countries assessed by Transparency International's corruption perception index in 2016.

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