Ukraine corruption under scrutiny at EU summit

Conflicting objectives are likely to trouble a top-level meeting between Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and senior EU officials in Brussels.

The summit is supposed to discuss anti-corruption measures demanded by the EU in exchange for visa-free travel. But Ukraine’s foreign minister said the focus must be on Russian aggression and extending economic sanctions.

Kiev is also concerned about Donald Trump’s praise of the Russian president during the U.S presidential campaign.

In 2014, Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych was forced from power amid corruption allegations.

Days later, the Crimea crisis began as gunmen seized key buildings in the region.

Measures to tackle endemic corruption are a key demand from the EU for visa-free travel from Ukraine, though, along with the U.S, it continues to support the country in its conflict with Russia.

Those anti-corruption measures are the supposed focus of Thursday’s summit with the EU’s Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker.

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.

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.

At the same time, pro-Russia activity in the country’s eastern Donbass region remains a concern for the Ukrainian 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 of the summit.

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

“For that we need our European friends and the representatives of the United States,” he said.

During the U.S presidential election campaign, Donald 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 U.S support, or even the acceptance of the new status quo in Crimea by Mr Trump’s White House.