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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (file photo)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a bill on an anticorruption court, an institution the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Western governments say is crucial for Kyiv.

Poroshenko signed the bill on the Supreme Anticorruption Court on June 11 at a meeting with students from the Ukrainian Leadership Academy in Kyiv.

Before signing it into law, he said it was meaningful that the ceremony was taking place "in the presence of Ukraine's future -- the future and current leaders of Ukraine. Congratulations."

On Facebook, Poroshenko called it a "key milestone in the creation of an independent anticorruption infrastructure in our country."

In addition to the IMF and other international institutions that provide Ukraine with financial support, the legislation has been demanded by protest groups who accuse Poroshenko's government of failing to tackle deep-rooted corruption.

But shortly after Ukraine's parliament passed the bill on June 7, the IMF said it still needed to review the final version, and separate legislation was needed to actually establish the court.

In March, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told Poroshenko that establishing an independent anticorruption court would "help the business environment and the investment climate.”

The IMF has called the establishment of an anticorruption court a "benchmark" of Ukraine's progress toward Western legal standards, and has said it would help ease the release of its loans in the future.

Corruption was among the problems that prompted Ukrainians to take to the streets and oust a Moscow-friendly government in 2014, but it remains a major hurdle to prosperity in the ex-Soviet republic.

Western officials say Ukraine will be far better equipped to resist interference from Russia -- which seized its Crimea region in 2014 and backs separatist militants who hold parts of two eastern provinces -- if it takes serious steps to combat graft.

On June 5, the U.S. State Department said "the establishment of a genuinely independent anticorruption court is the most important, immediate step the government can take to meet those demands and roll back corruption that continues to threaten Ukraine's national security, prosperity, and democratic development."

With reporting by UNIAN, pravda.ua, Bloomberg, and Reuters
Boris Nemtsov

A sign honoring slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov now stands near the Russian Embassy in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

Dozens of residents and representatives of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats party attended the ceremony for the unveiling of the Boris Nemtsov Square sign on June 9.

On May 23, the Vilnius City Council voted to name the square outside the Russian Embassy after Nemtsov, calling him a “symbol of the struggle for democracy” in his country.

A segment of the street in front of the Russian Embassy was also named after Nemtsov, who was shot dead in Moscow in 2015.

Former Lithuanian leader Vytautas Landsbergis, who attended the ceremony, said naming the square after Nemtsov is a sign of "hope."

"We believe that someday in Russia, our neighbor, democracy and freedom will come to have the same value as here in Lithuania," said Landsbergis, who was the Baltic country's first head of state after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russian ambassador to Lithuania, Aleksandr Udaltsov, called the city authorities' move politically motivated and "not right." He said it could cause "inconveniences for the embassy employees."

Udaltsov's comment echoed the Kremlin's reaction to a similar move by the authorities of Washington, D.C., in February.

Boris Nemtsov Plaza was officially unveiled outside the Russian Embassy in Washington on February 27, the anniversary of Nemtsov's killing, triggering criticism from Moscow.

А former deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin, Nemtsov was an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and had sought to build a viable opposition movement. He was gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin.

In July 2017, a Moscow court found five men from Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya guilty of Nemtsov's murder and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.

But Nemtsov’s relatives and associates believe his killing was ordered at a higher level and say justice will not be served until the person or people behind it are identified and prosecuted.

With reporting by delfi.lt and Interfax

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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