Zelenskyy vetoes asset declaration law

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday vetoed a parliamentary bill that sought to seal off mandatory asset declarations by officials from public view and had caused a public outcry.

Parliament voted last week to restore a declaration rule that was suspended after Russia’s 2022 invasion as a security precaution but to keep the disclosures closed to the public for a year.

“The reason (for the veto) is clear: declarations must be fully revealed. Right now. Not in a year. The register must be opened right now,” Zelenskyy said on the Telegram messaging app.

“This key amendment must be made before the law can be passed again. Swiftly.”

Lawmaker Yaroslav Zheleznyak said on Telegram the parliament would vote on the bill again around September 20. Zelenskyy’s decision to veto the bill was welcomed by some lawmakers and anti-graft campaigners.

Vitaliy Shabunin, a prominent Ukrainian anti-corruption campaigner, said on Telegram that Zelenskyy’s veto was a “victory” for Ukrainian society. “The right and timely decision,” said Olena Shuliak, a leader of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party.

A public petition asking Zelenskyy to veto the amended measure had rapidly gained tens of thousands of signatures, far above the required 25 000 needed for presidential consideration.

“This is a case where the President had no choice after the petition was collected in record time,” said the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, a Ukrainian non-governmental organisation, also hailing it as a victory for Ukrainian society. Anti-graft campaigners and opposition lawmakers among others believe the bill in its current form defeats the primary purpose of the measure to hold officials accountable.

The International Monetary Fund had singled out the return of mandatory asset declarations as one of several benchmarks for paying out part of a $15.6 billion IMF assistance package.

Fighting corruption is also a requirement for Ukrainian accession to the European Union, and Ukraine’s government has declared it a priority alongside repelling Russia’s invasion.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, visiting Kyiv on Monday, said Ukraine still had “a way to go … in the fight against corruption”.