KYIV, May 14 – Ukraine will reform its state-owned defense group Ukroboronprom to make its operation and management more transparent as the country is fighting the Russian aggression in Donbas, a senior official said Thursday.
Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia who was recently appointed to help President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promote reforms in Ukraine, said streamlining Ukroboronprom will improve the country’s security.
"Strong defense enterprises are something that constrain Russian aggression, and the reform launched at Ukroboronprom reinforces the domestic defense sector and also positively affects the entire heavy industry,” Saakashvili said at a meeting with the group officials.
Saakashvili was last week appointed as the head of the executive committee at the National Reform Council, a body under Zelenskiy, that proposes ways of accelerating economic transformation in Ukraine.
The appointment was seen as an attempt by Zelenskiy to speed up negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over $5 billion loan to avert Ukraine’s default later this year.
But Saakashvili’s involvement with Ukroboronprom shows that his mandate will also involve fighting corruption at state-owned conglomerates that have long been known as bastions of corruption.
“I believe that the National Reforms Council can accelerate the process of transformation so that first state-owned defense companies of a new type appear in Ukraine as soon as this year," Saakashvili said.
Ukroboronprom is led by Aivaras Abromavicius, a former economy minister who is widely known to be in favor of reforms and transparency. However, his efforts to reform the group require legislative and executive support from the government, and that hasn’t made much progress.
"Ukroboronprom is the last unreformed strategic enterprise in Ukraine of such a scale,” Abromavicius said. “The Council includes representatives of all state bodies on which the process and speed of transformation of both the concern and the entire defense industry depend.”
“We see in the National Council a partner who will help Ukroboronprom not just start the reform, but to carry out the transformation in full," Abromavicius said.
In 2015-2016, Saakashvili served as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region. When he resigned, he accused Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, of corruption. Poroshenko, in turn, stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship.
As one of his first acts as president last year, Zelenskiy restored Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship, facilitating Saakshvili’s return to Ukraine. (tl/ez)