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Thursday, April 14, 2016, 22:18

Ukraine approves new PM

By Reuters

Ukraine approves new PM
Newly appointed Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman (center) speaks to MPs during a parliamentary session in Kiev on April 14, 2016. (GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)

KIEV - Ukraine's parliament approved presidential ally Volodymyr Groysman as prime minister on Thursday in the biggest political shakeup since a 2014 uprising brought in a pro-Western leadership.

President Petro Poroshenko hopes the appointment of the former parliamentary speaker will end months of political deadlock that has delayed billions of dollars in foreign loans needed to shore up Ukraine's war-battered economy.

But the departure from the cabinet of experienced technocrats, including US-born Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko, who led strategic talks with Western lenders and investors has rattled pro-European reformists. Some deputies said the new government would struggle to get laws approved.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Groysman, 38, said his government was committed to tackling Ukraine's endemic corruption and strengthening ties with the European Union.

"I understand the threats that face us. In particular I would like to highlight three threats - corruption, ineffective governance and populism, which do not pose less of a threat than the enemy in eastern Ukraine," he said, referring to the conflict with pro-Russian separatists.

A new government should allow talks to resume on the disbursement of a third tranche of loans from the International Monetary Fund worth $1.7 billion, delayed since October.

Ukrainian bonds firmed after the vote in parliament.

TECHNOCRATS EXIT

Groysman's rebooted cabinet appears to strengthen the influence of Poroshenko in the government and on the economic side of policymaking in particular.

Oleksandr Danylyuk, 40, who is set to become finance minister, is the deputy head of Poroshenko's administration, while the economy minister and first deputy prime minister positions will be given to Stepan Kubiv, who is currently the president's representative in parliament.

They replace Yaresko, praised by Washington for her handling of Ukraine's debt crisis, and Aivaras Abromavicius, who as economy minister spearheaded a drive to privatize graft-ridden state firms, but quit in protest over corruption in February.

Poroshenko, whose confectionary business Roshen has made him Ukraine's sixth richest man, said the new government must honor reform commitments made under its $17.5 billion International Monetary Fund bailout.

"I stress the imperative and inviolable necessity of continuing cooperation with the IMF and other international lenders," he said.

His comments were echoed by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who in a joint statement said the formation of a new government was "a crucial development at a time when new momentum in the country is badly needed."

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