Ukraine central bank sounds alarm over threats to officials after car blaze

Shoaib Ur Rehman September 5, 2019

KIEV: Ukraine’s central bank said the torching of a vehicle owned by the family of its former governor, Valeria Gontareva, was evidence of “psychological and physical pressure” being exerted on her, days after Gontareva herself was hit by a car in London.

In a statement on Thursday, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) called for authorities to promptly investigate both incidents and prosecute those responsible.

“Recent incidents involving Valeria Gontareva and her family in London and Kiev may indicate that the former NBU Governor has become the target of psychological and physical pressure pursuing a certain goal,” the central bank said.

It called on the authorities “to safeguard the life and health” of Gontareva and current central bank staff, as guaranteed in Ukraine’s constitution.

The central bank said it saw “a real threat to the personal safety of those NBU officials who have implemented and continue to implement financial sector reforms” and that it believed the incidents were aimed at disrupting its work.

It did not say who it suspected was behind the incidents.

“Today at one in the morning, the car of the family of my eldest son was doused with gasoline and burned next to their house in the centre of Kiev,” Gontareva said in a separate statement.

“The car was registered in the name of my daughter-in-law, whose name is also Valeria Gontareva.”

Kiev police later confirmed that the car had been burned and said they had launched an investigation.

Gontareva says she was hospitalised with severe injuries after being hit by a car a week ago in London, where she now works as an academic.

As central bank governor, Gontareva was a key driver of reforms following the 2014 Maidan street protests that brought a pro-Western leadership to power in Ukraine. She stepped down in 2017.

The reforms included shutting scores of banks which the central bank said were used by their owners for shady purposes such as money-laundering.

In 2016, Gontareva helped nationalise PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest lender, which was co-owned by Ihor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s most powerful tycoons and a backer of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who swept to power this year.

Her reforms were praised by the International Monetary Fund but made her unpopular with some Ukrainian lawmakers and business leaders.

Gontareva has said she is being hounded as part of a long-running battle over her decision to nationalise PrivatBank.

Kolomoisky denies orchestrating a campaign against Gontareva, who was summoned for questioning in April as a suspect in a corruption investigation.

Gontareva denies any wrongdoing and says she is a victim of “political persecution” and is afraid to set foot in Ukraine.

Copyright Reuters, 2019

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