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Ukraine leader asks MPs to annul court ruling on anti-corruption laws

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has asked parliament to dissolve the Constitutional Court and annul its ruling striking down some anti-corruption laws, which campaigners said was a major setback in the fight against endemic graft.

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a parliamentary session in Kyiv, Ukraine October 20, 2020. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

The request, in a presidential draft submitted to parliament early on Friday, is the latest move in a tussle over corruption that Zelenskiy has said could jeopardise international aid for Ukraine’s coronavirus-stricken economy.

The Constitutional Court this week ruled to abolish some anti-corruption laws, citing as excessive the punishment for false information on officials’ asset declarations. It also struck down some powers of the main NAZK anti-graft agency.

“The decision of the Constitutional Court of null and void,” the presidential draft said, according to a copy reviewed by Reuters.

The draft proposed restoring the anti-corruption laws that the Constitutional Court threw out. The NAZK denounced the court’s action as the destruction of the anti-corruption system.

On Friday morning, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Constitutional Court building in downtown Kyiv, demanding the judges come out and explain to them the reasons for their ruling on the anti-graft laws.

Some set tyres ablaze and set off smoke bombs as many did during the 2013-14 Maidan street protests that toppled a pro-Russian president. They held up posters saying “Corruption Court of Ukraine” and “Remove Pigs from the Constitutional Court”.

Parliament is due to vote on the draft but no date has been set. Zelenskiy on Thursday promised swift action, saying the draft was urgent and parliament must vote on it as soon as possible.

Ukraine’s patchy performance on economic reforms and tackling entrenched corruption has derailed a $5 billion programme agreed in June with the International Monetary Fund at a time its economy is in sharp downturn due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The European Union’s delegation to Kyiv warned that its financial assistance was also tied to Ukraine’s performance on corruption.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, additional reporting by Gleb Garanich; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich