Ukrainian President Zelensky is under pressure to veto the asset declaration law with a loophole

KYIV (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to send back the law. Critics believe this hampers efforts to hold officials accountable by delaying a requirement to publicly disclose their assets.

Parliament voted on Tuesday to reinstate the declaration rule, which had been suspended for security reasons after Russia’s invasion in 2022, but – in a crucial loophole – to keep disclosures secret from the public for another year.

Anti-corruption activists and opposition lawmakers, among others, believe this defeats the main purpose of the measure, which was initially introduced as a flagship transparency reform after the 2014 Maidan revolution that toppled a pro-Russian president.

A public petition calling on Zelensky to veto the amended measure had garnered more than 83,000 signatures as of Friday – far more than the 25,000 needed for the president’s consideration.

Corruption remains a key concern for Ukrainians, who traditionally have a deep distrust of most officials.

On Thursday, investigative news agency BIHUS Info published a report revealing a slew of flashy cars allegedly purchased by lawmakers during the Russian invasion. The Ukrainians dug into their own pockets to support the war effort.

“It is now clear why MPs are hiding the fortune they made during the war,” the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a leading Ukrainian NGO, wrote on X on Friday in response to the report.

The International Monetary Fund had highlighted the return of mandatory asset declarations as one of several benchmarks for disbursing part of a $15.6 billion IMF aid package.

The fight against corruption is also a prerequisite for Ukraine’s accession to the European Union, and Zelensky’s government has made it a priority alongside repelling Russian invasion.

Observers, including Transparency International Ukraine, have suggested the IMF would not agree to Tuesday’s law. The global lender has not yet commented publicly on the matter.

Zelenskiy said this week that he would consult his deputy prime minister for European integration before signing the law.

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, deputy chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee, said he was optimistic that pressure from civil society and international partners could persuade Kiev Zelensky to send the law back for revision.

“This is the only effective method to bring about ambitious change in Ukraine, and it is working,” he said.

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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