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Ukrainian Economy Minister Resigns; West Deeply Disappointed

Ukraine's Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius speaks during a news conference in Kyiv, Dec.10, 2014.

Ukraine's economy minister tendered his resignation Wednesday, citing political pressure and corruption.

Aivaras Abromavicius said the country’s leadership had routinely blocked his reform efforts and that the economy ministry was at the mercy of corrupt vested interests.

"Neither me, nor my team have any desire to serve as a cover-up for the covert corruption, or become puppets for those who, very much like the 'old' government, are trying to exercise control over the flow of public funds," he said.

The Lithuanian-born Abromavicius said Ukraine needed a total reset of power. Referring to ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, he said the country's present state is “not just because of Yanukovych,” but because of “the total lack of reform over 20 years.”

President Petro Poroshenko said Wednesday that Abromavicius should remain in his post and push ahead with reforms. But the president has no direct say over cabinet appointments.

In announcing his resignation, Abromavicius said Igor Kononenko, a Poroshenko ally in Ukraine's parliament, had lobbied to have loyalists appointed to key positions in state-owned enterprises, and even to the post of deputy economy minister.

Speaking to Ukraine's Espreso TV channel Espreso, Kononenko categorically denied Abromavicius' accusations and said he would resign if they were proven.

Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau said it would investigate Abromavicius' accusations against Kononenko.

Abromavicius's resignation may be reviewed by parliament as early as Thursday.

A group of ten ambassadors, including those from the United States, Britain and Canada, said in an open letter that they were “deeply disappointed” by Abromavicius' resignation.

“During the past year, Abromavicius and his professional team have made important strides -- implementing tough but necessary economic reforms to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy, root out endemic corruption, bring Ukraine into compliance with its IMF (International Monetary Fund) program obligations, and promote more openness and transparency in government,” the ambassadors wrote.

“Ukraine’s stable, secure and prosperous future will require the sustained efforts of a broad and inclusive team of dedicated professionals who put the Ukrainian peoples' interests above their own.”

Abromavicius, a former investment banker, advocated deregulation and wide-scale privatization in Ukraine.

He was appointed to the cabinet 14 months ago along with other political newcomers from the private sector, including U.S.-born Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko.

VOA's Ukrainian Service contributed to this report