Back me or put IMF loans and EU visa-free deal at risk, Ukraine's president warns

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned on Monday that foreign aid loans and a visa-free deal with the European Union were under threat if parliament did not restore anti-corruption reforms, saying the country could slide into “bloody chaos”.

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a news briefing in Kyiv, Ukraine October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/Pool/File Photo

Zelenskiy has asked parliament to vote to dissolve the Constitutional Court and reinstate anti-corruption laws it struck down last week, but the outcome of the vote is uncertain.

In a possible signal he may dissolve parliament if lawmakers voted down new measures, Zelenskiy tweeted: “I want this parliament to work for the state. Whether the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] will continue to work will depend on the conclusions made by our deputies.”

Ukraine’s patchy performance on reforms has impeded a $5 billion deal from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support the economy, which has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government is also under scrutiny after passing a resolution giving it more control over the procurement of medicines and equipment, but denies allegations this could be a vehicle for corruption.

Zelenskiy told the ICTV news channel the IMF threatened to pull its support after the court verdict.

Opposition parties say they will vote against Zelenskiy’s legislation, which former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko described as a “coup d’etat” designed to concentrate more power in his hands.

It was unclear how many lawmakers from Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party would support the bill. Lawmaker Halyna Yanchenko said Zelenskiy’s faction would back the legislation “if we do not find other, less painful solutions,” Interfax Ukraine reported.

Zelenskiy said Ukrainians would not tolerate backsliding on reforms to fight corruption and that Ukraine’s reputation was at stake.

“Either the country will be thrown into bloody chaos again, or the state will end its existence as a system of transparent rules and agreements,” Zelenskiy said in an audio recording of an appeal to lawmakers obtained by the news site.

Additional reporting by Ilya Zhegulev; Writing by Matthias Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alex Richardson