Yushchenko Asks Parliament To Support Tough New Anti-Corruption Measures

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko asked parliament on Tuesday to back tough new anti-corruption measures, saying they would cut down on bribe-taking and nepotism by bureaucrats.

Lawmakers pledged to support the measures, though some questioned whether they would prove effective. It was unclear when the parliament might vote on the measures, contained in a six-bill package titled "Conception to eradicate corruption and (put) Ukraine on the path toward honesty."

The measures would require state officials to end involvement in private business after taking office, and prohibit them from accepting gifts or finding state jobs for their friends and relatives. It also would require them to declare their incomes and expenses.

Yushchenko proposed that Ukraine also join international protocols to combat corruption.

"If the parliament will vote for these bills without changes, it can be a start in the struggle with corruption among high officials," said Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, a member of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party.

Opposition lawmaker Mykola Tomenko was more critical, but said he would support the measures, nevertheless.

"It is impossible to eradicate corruption in Ukraine by adopting laws," Tomenko said. "First we should enforce existing laws."

Ukraine already has a law requiring high officials to publicly declare their incomes, but critics have complained that much appears to be left off the declarations.

For example, Yushchenko put his total income for 2005 at about 30,000 hyrvna (US$5,900; 4,600 euros), far lower than what Ukrainians believe he had access to.

Ukraine's new Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said he had an annual income of about 40,000 hryvna (US$7,900; 6,200 euros).

There have been no high profile successful corruption cases since Yushchenko took office in 2004, though he has pledged to make the fight against corruption a top goal for his government and hold former officials accountable for any proven misdeeds.

Watchdog group Transparency International's ranking of corrupt nations has listed Ukraine as one of the worst for several years.

Source: AP