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Ukraine Readies New High Court as Reforms Take Hold, Justice Minister Says

Pavlo Petrenko, minister of justice of Ukraine, speaks with a reporter during the Concordia Summit in Manhattan, New York, Sept. 19, 2017.

Ukraine could have a new Supreme Court installed by next month as part of judicial reforms aimed at rooting out corruption, Ukraine's Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko said Tuesday.

"I think from October the new Supreme Court will start working," Petrenko told Reuters in an interview at the Concordia Annual Summit in New York. "The next challenge for us is to establish new appeal courts throughout the country, and to take in new judges in the regional courts."

Petrenko added that reforms within appeal and regional courts could be in place within the next four years. Other government reforms began in 2014, after a popular uprising driven partly by public anger over endemic corruption.

Ukraine is still dealing with nagging allegations of graft, and Transparency International ranked it a poor 131st out of 176 countries in the World Ranking of Corruption Perception in a report this year.

The selection process for new Supreme Court judges has been questioned by figures including British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who cited concerns in July that Ukrainian government reforms were faltering.

Not ideal, but 'very good'

Petrenko addressed criticism surrounding the selection, saying that while there are no ideal processes, "this one is very good."

"We have a democratic society, and all the time there are people who will criticize the process," he said.

Ukraine currently is the recipient of an aid-for-reforms program from the International Monetary Fund.

So far, the IMF has given the country $8.4 billion, helping it recover from a two-year recession following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and the outbreak of a Russian-backed insurgency in its industrial east.

Under the $17.5 billion program, the IMF wants Ukraine to set up a special court to focus on tackling corruption.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday said he hoped an anti-corruption chamber would be created next month, but expressed doubt that an independent court as envisaged by the IMF could be set up before 2019.