Reuters International

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President Suma Chakrabarti arrive for a signing ceremony at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko


By Alessandra Prentice

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's reshuffled leadership has up to three months to convince Western backers of its commitment to kick-start a stalled reform drive, the head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said.

Ukraine's parliament appointed Volodymyr Groysman, an ally of President Petro Poroshenko, as prime minister on April 14 in the biggest political shakeup since a 2014 uprising swept the pro-Western leadership to power in Kiev.

Reformist lawmakers have expressed doubts that the political reboot can eliminate the influence of powerful business interests on policymaking in the impoverished former Soviet republic.

EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti, in Kiev this week for talks with the new government, expressed cautious optimism about its prospects.

"Overall I actually go back to London and to our board meeting next week with a very positive feeling about renewed commitment to the reforms, but the next two-three months will be crucial. We'll be watching," he told reporters.

"A key milestone in terms of turning their commitment into something tangible that people can believe is the IMF programme," he said.

The $17.5 billion bailout programme from the International Monetary Fund has been held up since October, but Poroshenko and Groysman have pledged to honour promises Kiev has made to tackle endemic corruption and to get the programme back on track.


Poroshenko sees overhauling the judiciary as a priority and has pledged to appoint a trustworthy prosecutor general, Chakrabarti said.

"It is an appointment that everyone is going to observe and say 'is this the right person for the job? Is this person objective and neutral and able to take on vested interests?' The signs are very good on that, but we want to see the appointment," Chakrabarti said.

Previously the president was criticised for moving too slowly on efforts to revamp the prosecutor's office - an institution accused of abetting cronyism.

In 2014-15 Ukraine received 2.2 billion euros (£1.71 billion) from the EBRD, making it the bank's second largest recipient of investment. But the bank has not invested new funds so far in 2016 due to a lack of progress with reforms.

"It will be very hard to get anywhere near 1 billion (euros of investment in 2016), but I hope that we can now get back onto the track that we were on. There was a pause button hit very firmly for everyone over the last few months," Chakrabarti said.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)


 Reuters International