Ukraine's assembly backs law to rein in oligarchs in first reading

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy looks on during an interview in Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) - A draft law which President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says will help curb the influence of oligarchs who have dominated Ukraine for decades was approved in its first reading in parliament on Thursday.

Ukraine's international allies and donors have repeatedly criticised Kyiv for failing to reining in small number of wealthy business leaders, many of them owners of television channels, who influence policy behind the scenes.

The bill, which has to be approved in a second reading to become law, defines what an oligarch is and says those who meet the criteria must be registered as such and prohibited from financing political parties or taking part in privatisations.

They would also be required to submit an annual income declaration.

The draft law would require officials, including the president, prime minister, head of the central bank, lawmakers, senior military officials and other top authorities, to make a declaration after any contact with an oligarch.

Justice Minister Denys Malyuska told lawmakers that there were four criteria by which it would be determined whether a person is an oligarch: beneficial ownership of a monopoly company, significant influence over the media, participation in political activities, and a fortune of over 2.4 billion hryvnias (about $87 million).

"A person meeting at least three of the four criteria will be recognised as an oligarch," Malyuska said before the vote.

Local media have suggested 10 or more of the wealthiest Ukrainians could meet the definition.

Zelenskiy promised to reduce the oligarchs' influence when he was elected president in 2019 but has struggled to do so and is under pressure from Kyiv's allies to wipe out widespread corruption in Ukraine.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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