Ukraine’s Zelenskiy forms business council after outcry over banker’s arrest

(Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced the creation of a council to “support entrepreneurship” on Tuesday aimed at bringing business leaders onside in wartime after many expressed outrage at the arrest of a prominent banker.

Zelenskiy issued a decree to enact the formation of the council a day after he met business community leaders in talks he acknowledged had been “difficult”.

The decree was issued after a sitting of the National Security and Defence Council, which sets defence policy. The Council also pledged to alter provisions of Ukraine’s criminal code allowing for the arrest and prosecution of business figures.

Zelenskiy said the Council for the Support of Entrepreneurship sought to provide “economic security and economic stability, right now. During martial law.”

“There are clearly defined steps that will help both Ukrainian entrepreneurs and state institutions to overcome the whole set of problems that have been extensively discussed in recent weeks,” he said in his nightly video address.

The council, he said, was made up of well-known business figures from different sectors with a variety of views.

“But there is a single task – to strengthen our economy, our society,” Zelenskiy said. “And, in addition, absolute clarity with relation to law enforcement agencies.”

Business owners have expressed concern over the detention last week of banker Ihor Mazepa on allegations he engaged in an illegal acquisition of land north of Kyiv to proceed with construction of luxury housing.

Mazepa was released from pre-trial detention on Tuesday, public broadcaster Suspilne reported, with his bail reduced to the equivalent of about $560,000

He has pledged to appeal the court ruling ordering his detention and said the case against him was being pursued because of his frequent criticism of law enforcement bodies.

Mazepa, whose company Concorde Capital has operated in Ukraine for some 20 years, was detained at the Polish border. His brother and officials linked to his company were also detained.

Suspilne said the bail was posted by one of the companies belonging to Concorde Capital.

Ihor Lisky, a business figure who attended Monday’s meeting with Zelenskiy, said the talks opened a dialogue with officials with some influence over law enforcement bodies.

“This was a red line when a businessman who earns money for the state and who…remained in the country during the war is treated as a criminal and can be thrown in prison,” Lisky told Ukrainian Radio NV.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Maria Starkova; Editing by Stephen Coates)