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Ukraine appoints young woman to lead purge of bureaucrats

Associated Press Associated Press 23/11/2016 By YURAS KARMANAU, Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus — Ukraine's justice minister has appointed a 23-year-old law graduate to lead a campaign to purge officials tainted by corruption of the ousted regime, a second woman in her early 20s with little experience appointed for a top job in the past week.

The "lustration" — the term in Eastern Europe for a post-communist purification — was a key demand of anti-government protests in Ukraine which culminated in President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country in February 2014. Despite President Petro Poroshenko's pledges to purge the government of officials implicated in corrupt deals of the previous regime, the results have not been as encompassing as many Ukrainians had hoped.

The appointment of Anna Kalynchuk on Tuesday sparked outrage in Ukraine despite Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko's insistence that she was promoted on merit.

The lustration department's former chief said last month it had identified nearly 1,000 officials who were fired from their jobs and barred from seeking government jobs until 2024.

Last week, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appointed a 24-year old woman as deputy interior minister and was promptly accused of promoting his protégé, who attracted extra attention because of some nude photos of her posted online. Avakov recently came under scrutiny for spending taxpayer's money on a lengthy business trip to Japan, accompanied by the would-be deputy minister.

"Ukrainian politics looks increasingly like a circus show in which clowns come to succeed frustrated professionals," Kiev-based independent political analyst Vadim Karasyov said Wednesday. "The resignations of top professionals and new scandalous appointments send a bad message both to society and Western partners who expect from Ukraine quite a different outcome of the reforms."

Avakov said his appointment had been vetted by several top Ukrainian officials. Presidential adviser Iryna Gerashchenko insisted last week that wasn't true.

"The nude pictures are not the problem," Gerashchenko said. "The appointment of a deputy minister on the integration with Europe has not been vetted by the deputy prime minister in charge of the Europe and Atlantic integration."

The appointments of young women with little experience follow high-profile resignations of foreign-born reformist politicians earlier this month including Odessa governor Mikhail Saakashvili and police chief Khatiya Dekanoidze.

Saakashvili, Dekanoidze as well as several other Western-educated officials have complained of government pressure and resistance to reforms.

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