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Ukraine Court Orders Agriculture Minister's Custodial Arrest

 

KYIV - In a significant development, a Ukrainian court has ordered Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky to be taken into custody following allegations of his involvement in the illegal acquisition of state-owned land valued at approximately $7 million.

Solsky vehemently denies the accusations, which pertain to incidents spanning from 2017 to 2021, predating his assumption of the agriculture minister post in March 2022. Despite tendering his resignation letter on Thursday, Solsky technically remains in his position until parliament deliberates on his request. This marks the first instance of a minister under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's administration being implicated as a suspect in a corruption case.

The presiding judge set bail at 75.7 million hryvnias and ordered Solsky's detention until June 24. Prosecutors informed the court during a hearing on Thursday that the charges against him could carry a maximum penalty of 12 years' imprisonment.

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While Solsky was unavailable for immediate comment, he has played a pivotal role in Ukraine's efforts to sustain its grain industry amid Russia's full-scale invasion. The conflict has disrupted Black Sea export routes, littered fields with landmines, and led to the occupation of farmland.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau disclosed that the allegations revolve around a scheme to acquire state-owned land valued at 291 million hryvnias and the attempted procurement of land worth 190 million hryvnias. Prosecutors outlined that under this purported scheme, land was unlawfully seized from two state entities and transferred to war veterans under the condition that they lease it to select private firms.

During the hearing, Solsky and his legal representative asserted his non-involvement in any such illicit activities. Notably, a major Ukrainian farm union declined to comment on the court's ruling regarding Solsky's custody.

Zelenskiy, who has consistently advocated a zero-tolerance approach toward corruption, previously replaced his defence minister amid corruption allegations involving the defence ministry.

As Ukraine grapples with the aftermath of this judicial decision, the case underscores the government's ongoing battle against corruption and the imperative to uphold transparency and accountability in public office.

April 26, 2024 12:34 p.m. 8012

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