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Ukraine Parliament Approves New Finance, Health Ministers


Ukraine's parliament speaker Dmytro Razumkov, center, and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, right, wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus talk at an extraordinary parliamentary session in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 30, 2020.

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has approved new finance and health ministers in a second vote after the government failed to cobble together enough support in an initial vote earlier on March 30.

Serhiy Marchenko, who was previously a deputy finance minister and deputy head of the presidential office of former leader Petro Poroshenko, was approved by lawmakers to replace Ihor Umanskiy, who had been in office for less than a month before he was fired earlier in the day.

Parliament also voted to approve former Odesa Governor Maksym Stepanov as the new health minister to replace Illya Yemets, who like Umanskiy was only weeks into his mandate before being fired on March 30.

At an extraordinary session on March 30, lawmakers also approved the first reading of a new banking law that was needed to qualify for some $5.5 billion in funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The banking law prevents the state returning a nationalized bank to its former owner. The IMF is said to have insisted upon approval of the law amid signs the government was considering returning PrivatBank, which is in the midst of a major legal and political fight involving its former co-owner, billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy.

The bank was nationalized in 2016 when international auditors found a $5.5 billion hole in its balance sheet; Kolomoisky, who has close ties to Zelenskiy, has insisted that the bank was improperly nationalized by Ukrainian regulators.

Umanskiy and Yemets became ministers on March 4 when parliament approved President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's cabinet shuffle.

A reason for their firing was not given.

Marchenko was proposed as the new finance minister, but in the first vote his approval fell three ballots shy of the 226 needed in the legislature. The second vote saw him easily pass the threshold with 256 votes.

Lawmakers also failed to approve the first reading of a revised state budget for 2020. The budget draft, which adjusts the states finances to reflect the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, will now return to lawmakers for revision.