October 10, 2019 / 11:44 AM / 2 months ago

Ukraine president says ready to discuss PrivatBank with Kolomoisky

KIEV, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday he was ready to discuss the fate of PrivatBank with its former owner Ihor Kolomoisky, but stressed he would defend the interests of the state.

Kolomoisky has fought a protracted legal battle over control of PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest lender, which was nationalised in 2016 against his wishes.

Since the start of his election campaign this year, Zelenskiy faced scrutiny over his business ties to Kolomoisky but dismissed suggestions he would help the businessman regain ownership of PrivatBank or help him win compensation.

Zelenskiy said public scrutiny over his ties to Kolomoisky was preventing him from holding talks that could actually prove beneficial to solving the dispute and prevent the state budget from incurring losses.

“Here can be an agreement,” Zelenskiy said.

“The state should not suffer losses. We need to sit down with him and say: look, it’s not going to happen, there is no money, nobody would return anything, let’s settle this. You want to live in this country – go ahead. But they don’t give me an option to do this. I’m ready to sit down with any oligarch.”

The central bank says a $5.6 billion hole had been left in PrivatBank’s finances due to shady lending practices under Kolomoisky’s ownership. Kolomoisky disputes that.

Zelenskiy met Kolomoisky publicly in September and days later Kolomoisky told reporters he saw scope for a compromise on PrivatBank. Any rollback of PrivatBank’s nationalisation would likely prompt the International Monetary Fund, which is in talks over giving Ukraine a new loan programme, to freeze aid.

Oleksandr Danylyuk, one of the most senior officials in Zelenskiy’s administration, resigned in September citing concerns about PrivatBank and the independence of the central bank.

Danylyuk had been finance minister in a previous government when PrivatBank was nationalised. Asked about this, Zelenskiy said Danylyuk’s departure was not to do with PrivatBank but because he did not grant Danylyuk’s wish to become prime minister. (Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Matthias Williams; Ediditng by Mark Potter)

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