Ukraine approves legislation in a bid for IMF aid

International
Volodymyr Zelenskiy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus speaks during an extraordinary parliamentary session in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, March 30, 2020. Ukraine has been under quarantine since March 12. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s parliament has voted to lift the ban on the sale of farmland in a move that would allow the country to get $8 billion worth of aid from the International Monetary Fund.

The bill, long pushed by economists to stimulate investment in agriculture, was approved by 259 votes out of 450 late Monday. It opens up the land market for Ukrainian citizens starting from July 1, 2021, and for Ukrainian companies starting from 2024.

Ukrainians will vote on a nationwide referendum on whether to allow foreigners to buy farmland.

Speaking in parliament Monday night, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy stressed the importance of getting the IMF loan.

“It is really important for us, to sign the memorandum with the IMF, and you know well that the two main conditions were the land law and the banking law,” Zelenskiy said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal echoed his sentiment in televised remarks Monday.

“Without the support of international organizations we will have to fall into the abyss of a financial meltdown,” Shmyhal said.

Earlier Monday, lawmakers approved the banking law in the first reading. It prevents former owners of banks that were nationalized or liquidated from regaining ownership rights or receiving compensation from state funds.

Some said that the bill, among others, targets billionaire tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky, whose Privatbank was nationalized in 2016 and who sought to get it back using his connections to Zelenskiy. In recent months, Zelenskiy has been trying to distance himself from Kolomoisky, who wasn’t hiding his ambitions to influence both domestic and foreign policies, observers say.

According to Zelenskiy, once Ukraine fulfills the conditions outlined by the IMF, it will receive the first batch of funds — $1.75-$2 billion — in 15 days.

“We agreed with the management of the IMF,” Zelenskiy said.

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