Ex-agriculture minister scandal halts Poland-Ukraine talks

Ukrainian ex-Minister of Agriculture Mykola Solskyi
Ukrainian ex-Minister of Agriculture Mykola Solskyi

Poland has suspended negotiations with Ukraine about farmer protests on the border following corruption charges against former Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi, Poland's Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Michał Kołodziejczak, said in an interview with Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna on May 13.

Read also: Polish border blockade shows systemic crisis — UA Economy Ministry

The next round of talks, scheduled for May 14, has been canceled.

"We will not negotiate with people who have corruption charges," said Kołodziejczak.

Polish farmers ended their blockade of Ukrainian trucks on April 29, a protest that began on Feb. 20.

The protesters had demanded an end to duty-free trade with Ukraine and a complete closure of the Ukrainian-Polish border to trucks.

The case against Minister Solskyi

Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) reported on April 23 that an incumbent minister was implicated in the illegal seizure of state land valued at 291 million hryvnias ($7.4 million) and attempted to seize additional land worth 190 million hryvnias ($4.8 million). Sources identified the official as Mykola Solskyi, Minister of Agrarian Policy.

Read also: Mykola Solskyi ousted as Ukraine's agriculture minister amid NABU’s land seizure probe

NABU identified a "criminal group" led by Solskyi that included officials from the State Service of Ukraine for Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre (StateGeoCadastre), and handlers who influenced the activities of these agencies.

The scheme involved destroying documents that entitled two state enterprises in Sumy Oblast to permanent land use. This led to the StateGeoCadastre declaring unauthorized occupation of the land, which was then transferred to pre-selected individuals under the pretense of exercising their right to free land, according to NABU.

Solskyi, who was detained on April 26 and later released on bail of 75 million hryvnias ($1.9 million), stated that the accusations relate to a period when he was a lawyer, not a minister or a parliamentary committee chair.

Read also: Ukraine's NATO entry and strengthening Ukraine - what Poland hopes to see at July's NATO Summit

On May 9, MP Yaroslav Zheleznyak announced the legislature's decision to dismiss two ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister for the Restoration of Ukraine, Minister of Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure Development Oleksandr Kubrakov. The successors for the Ministry of Reconstruction and the Ministry of Agriculture have not been announced yet.

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