Political novice Honcharuk appointed Ukraine PM

His premiership is to be focused on economic reforms and continued cooperation with the IMF

Photo: EPA Oleksiy Honcharuk speaks to newly elected deputies during a session of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, 29 August

Political novice and presidential protege Oleksiy Honcharuk was appointed as Ukraine’s prime minister on Thursday, claiming that economic reforms aimed at accelerating growth would be the focus of his premiership.

Having previously led a non-governmental organisation focused on economic reform and worked as an adviser to the Ecology Ministry, Honcharuk became a deputy head of Zelenskiy’s office in May. 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%, but minimum by 5-7%,” he said, adding that speed and successful economic reforms would be the focus of his cabinet.

Honcharuk also said that Ukraine would continue to cooperate with the IMF and start talks over a new program - which would replace an existing $3.9bn 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 the government and pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Late on Thursday, supporting Zelenskiy’s suggestions, parliament also appointed Ivan Bakanov as head of Security Service (SBU), Ruslan Ryaboshapka as prosecutor general and lawyer and activist Andriy Zahorodnyuk as defense minister.  Former Ukrainian ambassador to NATO Vadym Prystaiko was in the meantime appointed as foreign minister. Furthermore, Finance Minister Oksana Markarova retained her post after last year she became the negotiator with the International Monetary Fund.

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, however, he cautioned lawmakers that he could dissolve the chamber if he 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.

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