Ukraine Advances Law President Says Will Curb Sway of Oligarchs

Ukraine advanced legislation touted by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as a way to curb the sway of big businessmen who’ve wielded outsized influence over politics and the economy since communism collapsed three decades ago.

Parliament backed the so-called oligarch bill in a first reading on Thursday. Tycoons subject to the law would be forced to disclose their assets, and would be barred from financing political parties, holding government posts and taking part in privatizations.

Under the legislation, which will stay in effect for 10 years, an oligarch is defined as someone who meets three of four criteria: participating in public life, having significant influence over mass media, owning or controlling a company with a monopoly and having assets of more that 2.4 billion hryvnia ($88 million).

Senior officials who meet with them or their representatives will have to file reports saying they’ve done so.

Zelenskiy won power in 2019 on promises to end the grip of oligarchs on the former Soviet republic, where endemic corruption has weighed on economic progress. But he’s made little headway, and anti-graft activists decry this latest legislative push as populist. They say a stronger judiciary and tougher anti-monopoly legislation would be more effective.

What’s more, the law would hurt the president’s political rivals -- such as his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, a lawmaker with two TV channels and a confectionery empire.

The bill is part of a busy week for parliament in which other legislation has been amended to try to unfreeze a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

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