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Ukraine's economy minister quits over reform obstruction

Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius has accused parts of the Ukrainian leadership of blocking systemic reforms in the country. "My team and I have no wish to be a cover for open corruption," he said after resigning.

The abrupt resignation of the Lithuanian-born Abromavicius dealt a fresh blow to hopes of economic progress in the troubled ex-Soviet republic.

"This is more than the mere lack of support or political will," Abromavicius told reporters on Wednesday, describing his conflict with the elements inside the government. "This is an active effort aimed at paralyzing our reform push."

According to the minister, influential politicians were "trying to establish control over financial resources - first and foremost those of the Naftogaz [Ukraine's state oil and energy company] and the defense industry."

"My team and I have no wish to be a cover for open corruption or puppets under the control of those who want to establish control over state money in the style of the old authorities," Abromavicius said in a statement.

Players behind the scenes

The minister named Ihor Kononenko, a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko, as one of the

politicians working against Ukraine's economic restructuring.
Ukraine Kiew Parlament Verabschiedung Staatshaushalt 2016 Jazenjuk

PM Yatsenyuk appointed several foreign-born technocrats to boost reforms

Kononenko allegedly lobbied to get his people of his choosing appointed as the heads of state companies.

"He has done a lot to block my work and the work of the ministry during the last several months," Abromavicius told reporters.

According to Abromavicius, Kononenko also attempted to appoint one of his people as Abromavicius' deputy. The candidate simply turned up with the documents," Abromavicius said.

"He said, 'I am on Kononenko's team, and the higher-ups have already agreed on my candidacy,'" Abromavicius said.

"After that, I received a phone call from the president's cabinet, which recommended him emphatically, and also recommended another man as the deputy for the Ministry of Defense," Abromavicius added. "I told them I wanted no part of it and asked them to fire me.

"I decided to make it easy for Kononenko and his team and resigned," he said.

Kononenko denied the accusations as "completely absurd," saying that Abromavicius was trying to blame him for his failures in running the ministry.

Support from the US

Moments after Abromavicius' announcement, the US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted that the 40-year-old, ex-banker was "one of the Ukrainian government's great champions of reform."

For his part, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday called on Abromavicius to stay at his post.

Abromavicius is the fifth minister to resign since the 2014 revolt, adding to the pressure on the

pro-Western government led by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

His resignation still needs to be accepted by the national parliament.

Many Ukrainian citizens accuse the new regime of failing to stomp out corruption, as well as further damaging an already poor economy.

Abromavicius' predecessor, Pavlo Sheremeta, also resigned in frustration over slow reforms.

dj/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, Interfax, Ukrainski Novini)

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