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Uproar as Ukraine constitutional court blocks anti-corruption laws

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky   | Photo Credit: AFP

Ukraine’s constitutional court on Wednesday said that a number of anti-corruption laws including on free public access to officials’ declarations were unconstitutional, sparking an uproar in the ex-Soviet country.

The court ruled that criminal punishment for putting false information on state officials’ asset declarations was “excessive”.

The National Agency for Preventing Corruption and anti-corruption campaigners condemned the move.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian, came to power last year pledging sweeping political change and to root out corruption.

Rooting out corruption was also one of protesters’ top demands during a pro-European uprising in 2013-2014 and remains one of Western donors’ main demands.

“This is a crushing defeat for anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine,” Oleksandr Novikov, the head of the National Agency for Preventing Corruption, the main anti-graft body, said in a statement.

Following the ruling the agency will lose its right to check officials’ asset declarations and hold them accountable.

From now on “lawmakers, mayors, ministers and the president can put down any income they want and there will be no responsibility for this,” Novikov said.

Transparency International said the constitutional court’s ruling would lead to a “significant rollback” of Ukraine’s anti-corruption reforms.

“These legislative provisions were the cornerstones of the anti-corruption system, while corruption has been recognised (as) one of the threats to the national security,” said Andriy Borovyk, executive director of the anti-corruption watchdog’s Ukraine office.

After the popular uprising Western donors demanded tangible progress in Ukraine’s fight against corruption, and the authorities launched various anti-corruption bodies such as the National Agency for Preventing Corruption and the specialised court.

According to Transparency International, Ukraine ranked 126th out of 198 countries on the watchdog’s corruption perception index in 2019.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:16:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/uproar-as-ukraine-constitutional-court-blocks-anti-corruption-laws/article32968299.ece

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