Ukrainian ministry carries out first blockchain transactions

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s justice ministry carried out trial auctions using blockchain technology for the first time on Wednesday, part of an effort to improve transparency in government transactions.

The project is part of a broader drive by the Ukrainian authorities to modernize state institutions and eliminate corruption, in exchange for a $40 billion bailout from the International Monetary fund and other donors.

In April, global technology firm the Bitfury Group announced it was working with Ukraine to put a wide range of government data on a blockchain platform - a ledger of transactions that permanently records and tracks assets or transactions.

The justice ministry has started using the technology for auctioning seized assets and plans to transfer state property and land registries to the platform by the end of the year, deputy minister Serhiy Petukhov said.

“We want to make the system of selling seized assets more transparent and secure so that the information there is accessible to everyone, so that there aren’t concerns about possible manipulation,” he said at a briefing.

Ukraine has won praise for reform efforts, such as a wealth- declaration tool for officials and an online procurement system.

But its allies have repeatedly expressed concern that vested interests and corrupt practices remain entrenched, partly due to weak rule of law.

Blockchain first emerged as the software underpinning digital currency bitcoin. It has since become a key technology in both the public and private sector.

Reporting by Olena Vasina; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Larry King