KIEV (Reuters) – Political novice and presidential protege Oleksiy Honcharuk was appointed as Ukraine’s prime minister on Thursday, and said economic reforms aimed at accelerating growth would be the focus of his premiership.
Oleksiy Honcharuk, Ukrainian politician nominated to become new Prime Minister, addresses lawmakers during the first session of newly-elected parliament in Kiev, Ukraine August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Lawmakers, reconvening after a national election in July, ratified the 35-year-old lawyer’s nomination, presented earlier in the day by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – who warned the legislature that it risked being dissolved if it dragged its feet over reforms.
Deputies also appointed lawyer and activist Andriy Zahorodnyuk as defense minister.
Honcharuk became a deputy head of Zelenskiy’s office in May, having previously led a non-governmental organization focused on economic reform and worked as an adviser to the Ecology Ministry. He ran for parliament in 2014 but did not get elected.
“This government is facing the task of accelerating economic growth,” Honcharuk told lawmakers.
“We need to grow, but to grow not by 2-3 percent, but minimum by 5-7 percent,” he said, adding that speed and successful economic reforms would be the focus of his cabinet.
He also said that Ukraine would continue to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund and start talks over a new program – which would replace an existing $3.9 billion standby deal – in a few weeks.
The IMF helped the economy recover from a sharp recession and currency crash following the outbreak of hostilities between government and pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Separately, CNN cited sources as saying on Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump is heavily considering blocking $250 million of dollars in military aid to Ukraine intended to help fight invading forces from Russia.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
‘DO NOT ENGAGE IN POPULISM’
Zelenskiy, a comedian-turned-politician, became president in April in a landslide election win that transformed Ukraine’s political landscape.
His party, Servant of the People, won 254 of 450 seats in parliamentary elections in July, the first time a ruling president’s party has won an absolute majority in the legislature and the right to independently form a government.
On Thursday he cautioned lawmakers that he could dissolve the chamber if saw no progress.
“I’m very glad that we have a parliament that is really ready to work,” he told the parliament.
“(But) do not engage in populism, and not overwhelm important decisions with thousands of meaningless amendments, but implement the real reforms that the citizens of Ukraine and the entire civilized world are tired of waiting for.”
Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst with Kiev-based think tank Penta, called Zelenskiy’s government “the most liberal … in the history of Ukraine,” adding that reforms were expected to intensify.
Zelenskiy also nominated former Ukrainian ambassador to NATO Vadym Prystaiko as foreign minister, and lawyer and activist Andriy Zahorodnyuk as defense minister.
Parliament is also scheduled to appoint a new head of Security Service (SBU) and new prosecutor general on Thursday.
Zelenskiy nominated, respectively, Ivan Bakanov and Ruslan Ryaboshapka – another deputy head of his office – for the roles, according to parliament’s website.
Parliament is expected to vote on – and approve – all Zelenskiy’s nominees during Thursday.
Editing by Toby Chopra and John Stonestreet
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