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Thursday 26 May 2016

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Ukraine economy minister resigns, saying reform efforts were blocked

Published 03/02/2016

Aivaras Abromavicius has resigned from the Ukrainian government. (AP)
Aivaras Abromavicius has resigned from the Ukrainian government. (AP)

Ukraine's government has fallen under scrutiny after its economy minister resigned, saying the leadership routinely blocked his reform efforts.

The country's minister of economy Aivaras Abromavicius said he and his team could no longer drive forward much-needed reforms and were met with resistance on their efforts from government leaders including members of President Petro Poroshenko's party.

"My team and I have no desire to be a front for blatant corruption or puppets for people who want to take control over state funds as they did in the old government," Mr Abromavicius told reporters at a press conference in Kiev. "It wasn't just a lack of political will. (They were) actively seeking to paralyze our work in the government."

Mr Abromavicius, a Lithuanian native and former investment banker, advocated deregulation and wide-scale privatisation in Ukraine. He was appointed as the finance minister 14 months ago along with a cadre of other political-newcomers from the private sector including finance minister Natalia Jaresko, an American.

Their appointments were cautiously viewed as indicators that the new government would go through with long-overdue economic reforms.

However, the changes to Ukraine's government remain largely cosmetic and oligarchs still maintain huge sway in its decisions.

As he announced his resignation, Mr Abromavicius said Ukraine needed a total reset of power.

"We know how Ukraine ended up in the condition that it's in today. It's not just Yanukovych, it's the total lack of reform over 20 years," he said in a reference to ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

A group of 10 ambassadors, including those from the US, UK and Canada, expressed their disappointment at Mr Abromavicius' resignation in an open letter.

"During the past year, Mr Abromavicius and his professional team have made important strides - implementing tough but necessary economic reforms to help stabilise Ukraine's economy, root out endemic corruption, bring Ukraine into compliance with its IMF programme obligations, and promote more openness and transparency in government," the ambassadors wrote.

Mr Abromavicius said that Igor Kononenko, a Poroshenko ally in Ukraine's parliament, put pressure on the economy ministry to appoint his allies.

Mr Kononenko told Ukrainian TV channel Espreso that Mr Abromavicius' comments were false and his resignation "emotional".

Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau said they would investigate Mr Abromavicius' accusations against Mr Kononenko.

Mr Abromavicius' predecessor, Pavlo Sheremeta, resigned after spending under a year in office over frustrations with the slow pace of reforms.

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