Ukrainian president plays down impact of court rulings after IMF loan delays

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference at the end of an EU-Ukraine Summit at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 6 October 2020. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday (27 October) promised to keep Ukraine’s fight against corruption on track after two separate rulings by the constitutional court threatened to derail reforms needed under a $5 billion International Monetary Fund deal.

According to local media reports, the court ruled in a closed session on Tuesday that imposing legal penalties on officials for illicit enrichment was unconstitutional.

The full text of the verdict has not been published yet and the court’s spokeswoman declined to comment. The court on its website said it had passed a ruling in response to a petition by 47 lawmakers concerning the legality of some anti-corruption laws but did not say what decision was taken.

Zelenskiy’s office in a statement said that, whatever decision was taken, he would use his powers to preserve or reinstate the reform by which officials must declare their assets and can be prosecuted for illegally amassing wealth.

Zelenskiy’s government secured a new $5 billion loan deal with the IMF in June to fight a sharp economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the IMF has stalled on disbursing the money due to concerns over Ukraine’s performance in tackling corruption and passing reforms. “Ukrainian officials and deputies will continue to declare their property and income, and anti-corruption bodies will have the necessary powers to inspect them and bring violators to justice,” Zelenskiy’s office said.

In a separate statement, his office said the court had no power to dismiss the head of the national anti-corruption bureau (NABU), after the court ruled in September that NABU’s work was unconstitutional.

Parliament last year approved a bill that criminalizes state officials illegally enriching themselves, a step supported by the IMF and other foreign backers concerned about entrenched corruption in the ex-Soviet republic.

Ukraine passed a law in 2015 that outlawed illicit enrichment, but the constitutional court overturned the law in February 2019, prompting parliament to pass new legislation.

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