Ukraine’s president moves to dissolve top court over ruling

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine faced a new political crisis Friday as the president moved to dissolve the nation’s top court following its decision to freeze the country’s anti-corruption reforms.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s action came after the Constitutional Court ruled to annul key parts of anti-corruption legislation that Ukraine approved under persistent Western demands.

The court declared public access to officials’ electronic income declarations unconstitutional and also outlawed criminal punishment for providing false income information.

In their ruling that was published on Wednesday, the judges also ruled to strip the National Agency on Corruption Prevention of most of its key powers.

Zelenskiy, a former comedian without prior political experience, was elected in April 2019 on promises to uproot endemic corruption. He sharply criticized the court’s ruling, warning that it could cost the country Western support.

“We will have no money, no support,” the president said during Thursday’s meeting of his Security and Defense Council. “We will have a big hole in the state budget, and, more importantly, we don’t know what kind of surprise the Constitutional Court will present for us tomorrow.”

He asked the parliament to declare the court’s ruling void and terminate the authority of all of its judges. Zelenskiy’s request takes the country into uncharted legal terrain, as neither the president nor lawmakers have the power to oust the court members.

According to Ukrainian law, Constitutional Curt members can only be dismissed by a two-thirds vote by the court itself.

The president argued that the Constitutional Court’s ruling lacked a valid legal basis and violated legal procedures.

Constitutional Court chairman Oleksandr Tupytskyi criticized Zelenskiy’s move as a “constitutional coup,” but wouldn’t say what action he would take if the parliament votes to dismiss the judges at the president’s request.

Lawmakers are expected to consider Zelenskiy’s request next week.

The court’s decision also drew a negative reaction from the ambassadors of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations.

“The G7 Ambassadors are alarmed by efforts to undo the anti-corruption reforms that followed the Revolution of Dignity,” they said in a statement, referring to the 2014 upheaval that led to the ouster of one of Zelenskiy’s predecessors. “We stand with the Ukrainian people as they continue to fight to realize their aspiration of a prosperous and democratic Ukraine. Too much progress has been made. Ukraine must not go back to the past.”

The Constitutional Court’s ruling was made on appeal from the Opposition Platform for Life, a pro-Russia political grouping that has links with several top tycoons.

Several hundred protesters rallied outside the court building Friday, demanding the judges’ ouster.