Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has scheduled an extraordinary session for the afternoon of March 30 to adopt legislation that would protect the Eastern European country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bills will be considered required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock a lending program worth up to $8 billion, which would further lead to millions of dollars more in support from the European Union, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and other foreign backers.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a 10-minute televised address late on March 29, told parliament that failure to pass the legislation risked “the threat of default” and additional economic hardship as the number of COVID-19 infections approached 500 and 10 attributable fatalities, with cases being registered in every region and the capital, Kyiv.
“Tomorrow, the people of Ukraine will see clearly whether you are ready to defend their interests. And though tomorrow you all will be wearing [medical] masks, it will be clear to the people who is who -- the public will understand whether you are servants of the people or servants of vested interests,” Zelenskiy said.
The IMF is seeking a law on banking regulations that would prevent the former owners of banks that were nationalized or liquidated in recent years during a widespread clean-up from regaining ownership rights to them or receiving monetary compensation.
The Washington-based lender also would like for Kyiv to sanction the sale of farmland by lifting a sale-purchase moratorium in order for a robust land market to exist.
IMF Managing Director Georgieva Kristalina indicated last week that Kyiv could expect more than the originally discussed $5.5 billion it was seeking if the two crucial bills were passed.
"This last week, very good progress has been made in the discussions with the Ukrainian authorities on the new Extended Fund Facility arrangement," she said on March 26. "Adoption of legislation to improve the bank resolution framework and on land reform would allow moving forward quickly with finalizing the parameters of the new arrangement, with large access than previously envisaged."
The American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine urged parliament last week to meet the IMF's requirements.
“Ukraine’s Parliament must take bold, decisive, and rapid action this week to vote on necessary legislation to conclude the deal with the IMF that will enable disbursements to start in the near term,” the country’s oldest business association said in a statement.
On the eve of parliament’s special session, a lawmaker in the ruling presidential party released video recordings that allegedly incriminate the brother of presidential office head Andriy Yermak in trading government positions for kickbacks.
In a Facebook post the same day, Yermak denied the accusations and asked authorities to verify the authenticity of the recordings.
Ukraine as of 10 p.m. local time on March 29 had 475 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness that originated in China late last year and which has spread to nearly every country of the world.
Meanwhile, a second transport of medical equipment arrived in Kyiv from China on March 29.
The plane carrying 300,000 respirators, 35,000 protection suits, and 1.8 million surgical masks landed at Boryspil airport, said Kiryll Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
Ukraine also will receive $1.2 million from the U.S. government to counteract the spread of coronavirus, the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States said on Facebook.
The assistance will be spent on “the preparation of laboratory systems, the detection of disease, the provision of technical assistance in responding to and raising awareness about the risks of the spread of COVID-19.”