Ukraine's Parliament Urges Top Banker's Dismissal

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian parliament on Friday demanded the central bank chief be dismissed over the collapse of the national currency, accusing him of corruption and incompetence.

Volodymyr Stelmakh

National Bank chief Volodymyr Stelmakh has denied having any hand in the exchange market speculations that caused the hryvna to lose half its value against the dollar last week.

President Viktor Yushchenko is expected to ignore the nonbinding motion for Stelmakh to be fired. The motion was spearheaded by Yushchenko's rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has accused the central banker of conspiring with banks over the currency speculations and pocketing profits.

Yushchenko has said the country needs the expertise of Stelmakh, his longtime associate, to weather the current financial crisis. The currency devaluation coincided with a drastic fall in steel exports, leading to a foreign currency squeeze.

In the meantime, the Ukrainian currency has recovered some of last week's losses, which took it to 9.6 to the U.S. dollar from its September rate of 4.9 to the dollar.

At the close of trading Friday, the hryvna was listed at 7.6 to the dollar, thanks to the National Bank's efforts to prop up the rate by selling hard currency.

Tymoshenko has claimed Yushchenko was involved in the alleged corruption schemes.

The president has dismissed the allegation, and his top aide this week accused Tymoshenko of seeking to take control of the National Bank for personal gains.

Ukraine is sinking into a deep recession, with the economy expected to shrink up to 10 percent early next year, according to Yushchenko's estimates.

Industrial output has fallen nearly 30 percent, as global demand for steel, the heart of the economy, halved.

Source: International Herald Tribune

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