13 May 2024 13:38

Ukrainian parliament dismisses Agrarian Policy Minister Solsky

MOSCOW. May 13 (Interfax) - The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine dismissed Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Mykola Solsky at a meeting on May 9, Ukrainian media reported, citing deputies' Telegram channels.

Deputy Yaroslav Zheleznyak (Golos faction) said on his Telegram channel that the bill on Solsky's resignation, registered on April 24 by a group of deputies from the Batkivshchyna faction in the Verkhovna Rada led by Yulia Tymoshenko, was supported by 273 deputies with the required minimum of 226 votes.

According to Zheleznyak, Solsky unexpectedly came to parliament and, prior to his resignation, gave a report on the work he had done as minister.

People's Deputy Alexey Goncharenko (European Solidarity faction) said on Telegram during Solsky's speech in the Rada that the parliamentary committee on agrarian policy did not support his resignation, but proposed to decide on this issue during the session.

Solsky, speaking in the Verkhovna Rada, said, "These two years and two months have been extremely difficult for Ukrainian agriculture. At the same time, and I am absolutely sure of this, the agricultural market, farmers, and agricultural business have shown extreme endurance, adaptation to difficult conditions and the ability to develop even in such conditions."

Solsky said that one of his most important tasks as minister was ensuring financing for the agricultural sector, in particular the launch of the "Affordable Loans 5-7-9%" program for farmers (under the program, borrowers receive loans at a fixed rate of 5%, 7% or 9% per annum depending on the industry and the purpose of using the loan).

He said that over 50% of the financing under this program was dedicated to loans for agricultural producers. The mechanism was used by 14,639 agricultural producers over two years, and it attracted over UAH 67 billion. Meanwhile, the farmers returned 99% of the borrowed loans.

Among the latest changes in the "5-7-9%" preferential lending program, Solsky cited the extension of lending to farmers under previously concluded loan agreements until March 31, 2025; increasing the preferential credit limit for farmers involved in livestock farming, and the extension of loans to agricultural enterprises whose production facilities were located in the conflict zone as of February 24, 2022.

In addition, $580 million was raised to compensate for interest under this program thanks to the cooperation of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and the World Bank, Solsky said.

Solsky also said that work was done from 2022-2024 to launch the Partial Credit Guarantee Fund in Agriculture, which guarantees 50% of the outstanding principal amount to farmers with land plots of up to 500 hectares. The fund began operating in February 2024.

The minister thanked the parliamentary committee on finance, tax and customs policy for adopting the law on electronic agricultural receipts. "This year, agricultural notes will be one of the ways through which farmers will be able to receive additional funds," he said.

Solsky spoke about the results of other state programs for financing the agricultural sector, noting the support for microfarmers with subsidies per hectare and per cow in 2022 and 2024, for which more than UAH 1.6 billion was allocated in 2022. More than 31,000 farmers took advantage of it. The program will be expanded to additional types of livestock in 2024.

The grant program for gardens and greenhouses, whose costs were compensated by the state starting in 2022, was used by 215 farmers who planted new gardens and built greenhouses on 2,500 hectares, and created almost 1,400 permanent, and 23,000 seasonal, jobs.

As previously reported, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau notified Solsky on April 23 that he was suspected of misappropriating state land worth UAH 291 million and attempting to take possession of land for another UAH 190 million.

The High Anti-Corruption Court decided to apply a preventive measure to Solsky in the form of detention for 60 days (through June 24, 2024 inclusive) with the possibility of posting bail in the amount of UAH 75.7 million, posted either by the suspect himself or by another person.

In addition to Solsky, 12 more participants in the criminal scheme are under suspicion, including the former head of StateGeoCadastre of Ukraine, the head of StateGeoCadastre in the Sumy region, two StateGeoCadastre curators, officials from StateGeoCadastre in the Sumy region, the director of an agricultural holding and others who contributed to the commission of the crime.

The actions of these persons qualify under Part 5 of Article 191 (misappropriation, embezzlement of property or taking possession of it through abuse of official position) and Part 3 of Article 27 (organization and management in the preparation and commission of a criminal offense), Part 3 of Article 15 (unfinished attempt to commit a criminal offense), Part 5 of Article 191 (appropriation or embezzlement of someone else's property that was entrusted to a person or was in his charge) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Solsky submitted his resignation from the post of Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food on April 25. He was taken into custody on April 26 in the courtroom and escorted to detention. A few hours later, bail of UAH 75.7 million was posted for the minister. He was released on bail by the chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, Maria Didukh, and the deputy head of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council, Denis Marchuk. Solsky was prohibited from communicating with other suspects, from leaving Kyiv, and was required to wear an electronic bracelet.

The official exchange rate as of May 13 is 39.72 UAH/$1.