Ukraine president wants foreign anticorruption tsar

27th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on Thursday for a foreigner to head the country's new anti-corruption office as it seeks to tackle pervasive graft in the ex-Soviet country.

"I suggest inviting a person from outside Ukraine to this post. This person will have one advantage -- the absence of links with the Ukrainian political elite," Poroshenko said in a speech to parliament, which was holding its first session since pro-Western parties won a landslide election victory last month.

"No-one who is the godfather of anyone else's child or anyone's in-law or brother. A technocrat equally distant from all political forces whom we all trust and who will demonstrate the effectiveness of our actions," he added, without specifying any individual.

Ukraine's new coalition government has set itself an ambitious programme of reform as it seeks to impress international lenders, reboot its crippled economy and root out pervasive graft.

Poroshenko, one of Ukraine's handful of billionaires, pushed through sweeping anti-corruption laws in October and made the issue a cornerstone of his party's election campaign.

Andriy Marusov, Ukraine chief for the corruption watchdog Transparency International, said Poroshenko's initiatives could be a final chance. Ukraine was ranked 144th out of 177 countries in its last index of public perceptions of corruption.

"If there aren't any real breakthroughs," Marusov told AFP last month, "we risk going back 10 years into a black hole, where we'll be in a place that's called Ukraine, that has all the symbols of Ukraine, but which in fact is a failed state."

Embezzlement, kickbacks and bribery are nothing new in Ukraine, although they reached epic proportions under Poroshenko's Moscow-backed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, who lived in eye-popping opulence until he was ousted in February and fled to Russia.

The old problems have taken on a lethal new focus during seven months of conflict against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, with corruption seen as a major drag on the army's effectiveness and morale.

© 2014 AFP

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