Ukraine's farm minister Solsky named as suspect in corruption case

By Pavel Polityuk

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine's anti-corruption police named Farm Minister Mykola Solsky as a suspect in a criminal investigation into the illegal acquisition of state-owned land worth $7 million, the minister said on Tuesday, denying the allegations.

Solsky, who has overseen Ukraine's beleaguered wartime grain industry since March 2022, said he did not understand why the allegations relating to events in 2017 and 2018 had surfaced now.

"I do not agree with the allegations," he told reporters in Kyiv after a statement from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine detailing the findings of an investigation.

The agency said a "current minister" had led a scheme aimed at acquiring state-owned land worth 291 million hryvnia ($7.35 million) and trying to obtain land worth 190 million hryvnia.

It did not name Solsky, but said the suspect was the former chairman of the parliamentary agrarian committee, a post he held before becoming a minister in March 2022. The agency posted a blurred photograph of what appeared to be Solsky.

After the statement and Ukrainian media reports naming him, Solsky confirmed he had received a notice of suspicion in the case.

"I have nothing to with this land," he said, adding that he did not plan to tender his resignation.

"I guarantee maximum openness to establish the truth, but there is no need for this - all the data is open to law enforcement, and the evidence and arguments of the parties are being considered by the courts," Solsky said in a separate statement.

Solsky is the first known minister under current President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be named as a suspect in a corruption case.

Zelenskiy has tried to project a zero tolerance stance on corruption and last year sacked his defence minister after graft allegations pertaining to the defence ministry.

Lawmakers have said in recent days that they expect a government reshuffle soon and certainly by the end of spring.

($1 = 39.6001 hryvnias)

(Reporting by Anastasiia Malenko and Pavel Polityuk; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Timothy Heritage, Ed Osmond, William Maclean)