Ukraine’s ex-prime minister and leader of the Batkivshchyna opposition party Yulia Tymoshenko is trying to destabilise the economic situation in the country by fuelling protests in Kyiv and undermining the central bank, according to the embattled head of regulator.
“Tymoshenko is convening a rally of failed banks’ depositors and blatantly deceives Ukrainians. The figures and facts Tymoshenko used in her speeches and propaganda materials have no substance and hold no water,” National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) governor Valeriya Gontareva said in a statement published on November 14. “Tymoshenko has been joined by several MPs who attempting to destabilise the economic situation only to serve their own political purposes.”
The riposte came after what Gontareva said was a smear campaign against her and the bank, and coincided with the start of anti-government protests in the Ukrainian capital. On November 14, around 300 protesters blocked the NBU offices demanding Gontareva’s dismissal. More people joined the protest in Kyiv the next day.
Gontareva in turn accused Tymoshenko and her allies of using “populist slogans”, which serve “the interests of the owners of failed banks.”
She added: “The NBU prevented them [these banks] from carrying out sham transactions, withdrawing funds from banks, extending loans to themselves from the bank’s deposits to finance their own business. Furthermore, they do not want to repay their debts.”
Over the past two and a half years the NBU withdrew the licences of more than 80 lenders, in many cases because of involvement in money laundering or for a lack of transparent ownership structure. The number of banks operating in Ukraine fell from 180 in early 2014 to just over 100 today.
“The NBU and the Deposit Guarantee Fund have lodged over 3,300 claims with the law enforcement authorities in which they reported crimes that have inflicted damage amounting to approximately UAH300mn ($11.4bn),” Gontareva added.
According to the NBU governor, “The owners of failed banks siphoned these funds from financial institutions to finance their business empires. Their banks went bankrupt and depositors incurred losses when their banks failed. However, their [owners’] core business thrives and yields them huge profits, thus gaining them a spot on the list of the wealthiest Ukrainians.”
Gontareva said the goal of the current smear campaign against the NBU was to effect regime change and “bring to power those political forces that support the owners of failed banks and would turn a blind-eye to their multi-billion debts”.
Earlier, Tymoshenko and Ukrainian independent lawmaker and oligarch Serhiy Taruta launched a critical campaign against Gontareva. Taruta proposed including the issue of her dismissal in the agenda of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada parliament. One resolution is a petition to Ukrainian President Pertro Poroshenko to dismiss Gontareva and the second is to create a temporary investigation commission.