Ukraine court orders agriculture minister to be taken into custody

Ukraine court orders agriculture minister to be taken into custody
# 26 April 2024 10:12 (UTC +04:00)

A Ukrainian court ordered on Friday for Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky to be taken into custody over allegations of his involvement in an illegal acquisition of state-owned land worth about $7 million, APA reports citing Reuters.

Solsky denies the allegations, which relate to events in 2017-2021 before he started as agriculture minister in March 2022. The judge set bail at 75.7 million hryvnias ($1.9 million).

Solsky tendered his resignation letter on Thursday but technically remains in his post until parliament considers his request. He is the first known minister under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be named a suspect in a corruption case.

The judge said that Solsky would remain in custody until June 24. Prosecutors told a court hearing on Thursday that the allegations against him were punishable by up to 12 years in jail.

Solsky was unavailable for immediate comment.

Solsky, 44, has been at the centre of Ukraine's effort to keep its grain industry going as Russia's full-scale invasion has blocked Black Sea export routes, strewn fields with landmines, and seen farmland occupied.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau has said the allegations relate to a scheme to acquire state-owned land worth 291 million hryvnia ($7.35 million) and trying to obtain land worth 190 million hryvnia.

Under the alleged scheme, the land was illegally taken from two state firms and transferred to war veterans on the condition they lease it to some private firms, prosecutors said.

Solsky and his lawyer told the hearing on Thursday that he did not benefit from any such scheme.

A major Ukrainian farm union declined to comment on the Solsky custody ruling when reached by Reuters.

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

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