Ukraine urged by EU to tackle corruption

Underwear hung by anti-corruption activists is on display during a rally to demand officials register their income declarations in the e-declaration system in front of the Ukrainian parliament building in Kiev, Ukraine, October 18, 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Anti-corruption activists hung underwear in front of Ukraine's parliament during protests last month

Ukraine's record on tackling corruption is due to come under scrutiny at a meeting with EU leaders on Thursday.

EU officials have been urging Ukraine since 2014 to clamp down on corruption and to carry out other reforms.

But critics say not enough has changed, and President Petro Poroshenko has been accused of backing corrupt officials.

The Brussels talks with senior EU officials will focus on the progress of reforms, with the promise of visa-free travel for Ukrainians on the table.

But Ukraine hopes another matter - Russia's role on Ukrainian territory - will take priority at the meeting.

How bad is the corruption problem?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A replica galleon on former President Yanukovych's estate symbolised state corruption for many

Perception of corruption is worse in Ukraine than in Russia, according to Transparency International.

Two weeks ago, the governor of the Odessa region, former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, resigned, accusing Mr Poroshenko of backing corrupt officials who, he said, were undermining his reform efforts in Odessa.

Days earlier, officials were forced to reveal their huge wealth - hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and collections of luxury items - under new anti-corruption rules.

In 2014, Ukraine's then-President Viktor Yanukovych was forced from power amid corruption allegations - his lavish estate, with Greek ruins and a replica galleon, was then revealed.

Last month, activists hung underwear outside parliament in protest - the word for "underwear" resembles that for "cowards".

The view from Ukraine - Tom Burridge, BBC News

Ever-since the collapse of the Soviet Union, corruption has, for many people, continued to be an integral part of everyday life in Ukraine.

Ukrainians know that a small payment is often necessary if their child wants to see a good doctor.

At some schools extra money can, perhaps benignly, be requested from parents for books or other equipment. A lack of funding for schools and hospitals is part of the problem.

Earlier this year a journalist wrote about her shame when she paid a $200 (£160) bribe to her university professor, to ensure that he passed her dissertation.

Since 2014, some things have changed.

The police used to have the worst reputation for exacting bribes. From personal experience, police officers in Kiev nowadays religiously play by the book.

Unnecessary levels of bureaucracy are often where "extra payments" creep in.

And low salaries are also to blame. The minimum wage in Ukraine is currently just $56 a month, although it will be doubled in the new year.

What is Ukraine doing about corruption?

Ukraine has created a new anti-corruption bureau, a new police force, new electronic systems for tendering government contracts, and a method for tracking the wealth of public officials and politicians.

Image copyright Anna Kalynchuk
Image caption Anna Kalynchuk's appointment was criticised, although she was already a key figure in the anti-corruption bureau

On Wednesday, a 23-year-old lawyer, Anna Kalynchuk, was appointed to lead the anti-corruption drive.

Critics claim she lacks the proper experience, but others have welcomed new ideas to challenge older politicians.

Days earlier, 24-year-old Anastasia Deyeva was appointed deputy interior minister one of the country's highest-ranking police and security positions.

What else is under discussion?

The seizure of territory by pro-Russian rebels in Donbass in south-eastern Ukraine remains a concern for the Kiev government, more than two years after the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

"I think the focus must be on the situation in Donbass, on Russian aggression, on the extension of sanctions," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said before the summit.

He said Russia must be forced to honour peace agreements signed in early 2015.

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Media captionPolicy change would have huge implications for Kiev as Tom Burridge reports

Ukraine is also concerned about Donald Trump's praise of the Russian president during the US presidential campaign.

Mr Trump repeatedly talked about repairing relations with Russia, and criticised the United States' role in Ukraine.

His comments led some Ukrainians to fear a withdrawal of US support, or even the acceptance of the new status quo in Crimea by Mr Trump's White House.

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