Ukraine minister Abromavicius quits over corruption

Aivarus Abromavicius (Ukraine government picture) Image copyright Ukraine government
Image caption In a statement, Mr Abromavicius complained of being obstructed and he singled out one MP

Ukraine's economy minister Aivarus Abromavicius has resigned in protest at the slow pace of reform in the country.

He said he did not want to provide "cover" for widespread government corruption.

President Petro Poroshenko brought Mr Abromavicius from Lithuania to help spearhead Ukraine's reform campaign.

But two years after their pro-Western revolution, many Ukrainians say there has been little change and their country remains mired in corruption.

Mr Abromavicius, a 40-year-old ex-banker from Lithuania, was one of several non-Ukrainian experts brought in to help tackle abuses after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in February 2014 and Mr Poroshenko was elected president.

His predecessor as economy minister, Pavlo Sheremeta, also resigned in frustration.

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Mr Abromavicius complained that officials had actively placed obstacles in his way, even alleging that members of President Poroshenko's administration were blocking him.

He spoke of systematic and concrete actions aimed at paralysing reforms, "ranging from a sudden removal of my security detail to the pressure to appoint questionable individuals to my team or to key positions in state-owned enterprises".

He even named an MP from the president's party, Igor Kononenko, accusing him of trying to obstruct his team's efforts and of seeking to influence key appointments in state companies.

Mr Kononenko reacted by suggesting that some ministers appeared to be trying to "switch personal responsibility away from their own guilt and that of their teams, and on to MPs".

Mr Abromavicius's decision is a stinging condemnation of Ukraine's government, says the BBC's David Stern in Kiev. If his resignation is confirmed by parliament, it would be a heavy blow to a country still mired in corruption, he adds.

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Media captionFootage shows a row between Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Mikheil Saakashvili, governor of the southern Odessa Region

After submitting his resignation, the minister met President Poroshenko who urged him to stay.

"He has now left to deliberate," Mr Poroshenko wrote on Facebook, adding that Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau would investigate his complaint. Mr Kononenko had also agreed to co-operate, he said.

"The sooner society has answers to the questions, the better," Mr Poroshenko said.

Ten Western ambassadors in Kiev expressed disappointment at the resignation, in a statement praising the "tough but necessary economic reforms" implemented by his team in the past year.

They called on Ukraine's leaders to "set aside their parochial differences" and press ahead with further changes.

Among the foreign officials brought in to tackle corruption in Ukraine was Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was given the job of governor of the southern region of Odessa.

At the end of last year, President Poroshenko could only look on as a meeting of the National Council for Reforms turned into a slanging match between Mr Saakashvili and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, as they traded accusations of corruption and populism.

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