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article imageUkraine PM seeks to sack anti-corruption finance minister

By Olga SHYLENKO (AFP)     Jun 6, 2018 in World

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman submitted to parliament on Wednesday a motion for the dismissal of his finance minister as the ex-Soviet country seeks to receive more aid from donors.

Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk, a respected reformer backed by the International Monetary Fund, has ruffled many feathers as he seeks to clean up the country's fiscal and customs services.

In the latest scandal to rock Ukraine's government, Groysman accused the 42-year-old finance minister of distributing "distorted information among our international partners."

"I ask lawmakers to support my motion," Groysman wrote on Facebook.

"Taking into account the challenges we face the issue of replacing the head of the finance ministry should be decided immediately."

The sacking of the finance minister -- which needs to be approved by Ukraine's parliament -- is expected to raise concern among the country's foreign donors including the IMF.

Bill Tompson‏, head of the Eurasia division at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said the IMF and the markets would watch closely who is named as Danylyuk's replacement.

"It is not good news for Ukraine," he tweeted.

Ukrainian media reported last week that Danylyuk wrote a letter to the Group of Seven nations, complaining that the government was trying to hamper his efforts to push through fiscal and other reforms and accusing officials of "corruption (and) vested interests."

- 'Colossal pressure' -

Danylyuk also said Groysman blocked his choice of deputy minister in charge of tax policy.

"I reached the limit in looking for compromises," the minister said in the letter, a copy of which was published by Ukrainian website Ekonomichna Pravda.

Writing on Facebook on Wednesday, Danylyuk said he "had faced colossal pressure over the past year" and accused the authorities of corruption.

"I was given a choice -- either leave or become an accomplice," he said.

"I will not sell out my country," he said, adding he wanted to address lawmakers in parliament.

Over the past years, global lenders have provided Ukraine -- which is locked in a conflict with Russian-backed rebels -- with billions of dollars of financing to allow its stricken economy to stay afloat.

Corruption was among top reasons that prompted Ukrainians to take to the streets and oust a Kremlin-backed regime in 2014.

But Ukrainian and Western observers have repeatedly questioned pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko's resolve to reform the country's kleptocratic system.

Ukrainian opposition leader and former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili dramatically fell out with Poroshenko over allegations that Kiev was failing to fight endemic corruption and was kicked out of the country earlier this year.

- Smear campaign -

In April, Danylyuk became a target of an apparent smear campaign in Ukrainian media which reported that he had bought a posh apartment in London for 760,000 pounds.

Danylyuk denied the claim.

In May, Francis Malige, managing director for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, defended the minister, accusing Ukrainian media of producing "fake news."

"The 'proof' photo was taken in Paris, in my family's apartment," Malige wrote.

Political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko said the latest scandal would only strengthen fears among foreign governments and donors that Kiev was not serious in its drive to combat corruption.

"They want to deal with a stable country," he told AFP.

He suggested that Danylyuk's first deputy Oksana Markarova could replace her boss, a choice he said could please the IMF.

"She is aware of all matters, including negotiations with the IMF," he said, describing her as a "workhorse."

Parliament on Thursday is expected to vote on the creation of a new anti-corruption court, a key condition for the IMF to distribute more aid to Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities stunned the world last week by staging the murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko in a bid to foil what they said was a real assassination plot by Moscow.

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