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Ukraine appoints new head of the National Bank

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to appoint a new head of the country's central bank after its former chief stepped down citing political pressure. The parliament approved 47-year-old banker Kyrylo Shevchenko as the new head of Ukraine's National Bank on Thursday with 332 votes out of 450. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy put forward Shevchenko, who used to run the state-owned Ukrgasbank, as a candidate for the job on Wednesday.

Speaking in the parliament on Thursday, Shevchenko said that he supports the bank's policies ensuring macroeconomic stability, adding that it should also aim to boost economic growth. Shevchenko's predecessor, Yakiv Smolii, resigned two weeks ago, citing “systematic political pressure” as the reason for his decision. His resignation was promptly accepted both by Zelenskiy and the country's parliament.

Smolii was named the acting National Bank head in May 2017 and then was appointed formally to the job by parliament in March 2018 under Petro Poroshenko, then the country's president. Members of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, which dominates parliament, have criticized the National Bank, arguing that its rigid policies have hurt the economy and stymied growth.

Smolii’s resignation follows the International Monetary Fund’s approval of a $5 billion loan package for Ukraine intended to help it cope with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The Ukrainian economy is expected to shrink by 5% because of the outbreak.

In the wake of Smolii’s resignation, Ukraine’s Finance Ministry canceled a planned offering of dollar-denominated bonds. The ambassadors of the Group of Seven leading developed nations responded to Smolii’s resignation by emphasizing the crucial importance of the National Bank’s independence.

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