Ukrainian lawmakers pass law on oligarchs

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Ukraine's parliament has passed a law to order "oligarchs" to register and stay out of politics, a day after an attempt to kill a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which officials said could have been a response to the reform.

The law provides a definition for an oligarch, while giving the authorities the power to designate individuals who meet the criteria.

Oligarchs would be forbidden from financing political parties or taking part in privatisations. Top officials, including the president, prime minister and head of the central bank, would be required to declare dealings they had with them.

Zelenskiy says it is necessary to protect the country from powerful businessmen who have corrupted its political system for decades. His opponents say they fear it will be applied selectively to concentrate more power in the president's hands.

The law passed a first reading in July. Thursday's second reading, which passed with 279 votes in the 450-seat parliament, means it now goes to Zelenskiy for approval.

Zelenskiy's team has suggested anger at the law could be behind an attempt to assassinate Serhiy Shefir, a top aide and close friend of the president. Shefir's car was sprayed with gunfire on Wednesday by unidentified individuals as he travelled between two villages outside the capital.

Shefir was unharmed though his driver was wounded. Police are searching for the weapon and interviewing possible witnesses who were picking mushrooms nearby, Interior Ministry spokesperson Artem Shevchenko said on Thursday.

In a Facebook post he called it a real assassination attempt and "not staged".

Zelenskiy won a landslide election in 2019 promising to tackle corruption and curb the influence of oligarchs, who have dominated the business landscape since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and wield influence in politics and the media.

Under the law, the national security and defence council, headed by the president, has the power to designate someone as an oligarch.

Opposition lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko, from former President Petro Poroshenko's party, said the law "creates huge scope for corruption", and compared it to tactics used by Russian President Vladimir Putin to increase his powers.

Kira Rudyk, the leader of the Voice party, said the bill was designed "only to strengthen the power, strengthen the position of the president and make it so that he can, together with the National Security and Defence Council, actually decide who can have control over the media and who cannot."

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