Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to push for legislation creating an anticorruption court by the end of the year, in an apparent response to demands from Western allies as well as protesters camped outside parliament in Kyiv.
Speaking while meeting with a border security unit in Kyiv late on October 20, Poroshenko said he was reaffirming his support for a key institutional change he promised when elected president after the ouster of Russia-backed former President Viktor Yanukovych.
The move comes amid the first sustained wave of opposition protests in Kyiv since Yanukovych was ousted during Ukraine's 2014 pro-Western street protests.
Poroshenko said he had already included money for an anticorruption court in next year's draft budget.
"This testifies to the state leadership's firm commitment to launching this vitally important judicial body next year," he said.
"The way I see and plan it, the timeline for the new court's creation foresees the president's signature on an anticorruption law by the end of the year," he added.
Poroshenko urged lawmakers of all parties to help draft the court legislation, and said it should take into consideration recommendations made by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission.
Protest groups and leaders of the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have demanded the anticorruption reforms, did not immediately respond.
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 loans in the future.
Ukraine last year ranked 131st out of 176 countries rated by Transparency International's corruption perception index.
Poroshenko's critics have accused him of deliberately delaying the court's creation in the past to preserve the current political order.
He has previously said that no special judiciary body aimed at tackling state corruption could be set up until 2020.
But Poroshenko apparently reconsidered the issue after thousands of protesters rallied outside parliament on October 17, demanding the court's creation as well as the passage of a law stripping members of parliament of their immunity from prosecution.
In televised remarks on October 20, Poroshenko called the activists who organized the protests "provocateurs" and said they wanted "to destabilize the situation in Ukraine."
The protests were initially called by Mikheil Saakashvili, a one-time Poroshenko ally turned critic who was formerly president of Georgia and governor of Odesa. But many of the Ukrainian opposition's political leaders have also joined the protests
The protesters proclaimed a "small victory" earlier this week when Kyiv lawmakers agreed to proceed with two bills that would eliminate their immunity from prosecution. The measures were sent to the Constitutional Court for review and cannot be introduced before 2018.
Lawmakers did not act on anticorruption court legislation before recessing this week, and they are not due to convene again until November 7.
With reporting by AFP and Interfax