Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy came under mounting pressure from a grassroots anti-corruption campaign demanding that he block new legislation on asset declarations for public officials.
(Bloomberg) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy came under mounting pressure from a grassroots anti-corruption campaign demanding that he block new legislation on asset declarations for public officials.
The campaign, spearheaded by an injured solider recovering in a military hospital, says the new requirements are inadequate because they withhold declarations from the public for a year, citing security reasons. The petition by the soldier, former Health Ministry official Oleksandr Yabchanka, gathered the required 25,000 signatures within three hours.
The draft law “deprives the public and journalists of a tool to control activities of officials — and of the main preventive measure against corruption during the war,” according to the text of the petition posted on the presidential website.
The public outrage underscores a deepening sensitivity to corruption as the Ukrainian public supports troops on the frontline. Zelenskiy this week replaced his defense minister following allegations of graft in public procurement. Last month, he fired all of the military’s draft officers after accusations of sleaze had come to light.
Electronic asset declarations were frozen after Russia’s invasion on security concerns. Restoring them is a demand by international creditors, including the International Monetary Fund, and a condition to obtain visa-free travel in the European Union. Global donors who have championed Ukraine’s integration into Western institutions have taken a close look at corruption, which has been endemic in the country.
The yearlong delay of the asset declaration, a tool used widely by journalists in Ukraine investigating graft, drew immediate scrutiny from anti-corruption groups. Yabchanka’s petition secured well over 60,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon in Kyiv.
“The president has to decide whether the declarations will be made open now or they will remain closed for many years,” Vitaliy Shabunin, the head of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Center, said on Facebook.
Ukraine’s parliament backed the legislation in its final reading on Tuesday. Zelenskiy, himself elected to office in 2019 on a campaign to rid the nation of corruption, has 15 days to decide whether to sign it into law.
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