April 27, 2017 / 4:34 PM / in 3 months

INTERVIEW-EBRD backs Lavrenchuk for Ukraine central bank job

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LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development backed Volodymyr Lavrenchuk on Thursday, the head of Raiffeisen's Ukrainian unit, to take over the country's central bank and pursue reform.

Former central bank governor Valeria Gontareva resigned earlier this month, depriving the country of a tough reformer.

The EBRD has been pumping as much as a billion euros a year into Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea by Russia, but become concerned enough to warn this month that some of the country's key reforms were in danger of unravelling.

On Thursday, Francis Malige, the EBRD's regional head in Ukraine, said the international community remained "very supportive" of Kiev's reform path, but wanted the progress of the past three years "protected and sustained."

"In that regard, one must welcome, if it is confirmed, the nomination of Volodymyr Lavrenchuk to replace the outgoing governor of the National Bank," Malige told Reuters.

Lavrenchuk has also been backed by former Ukraine prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who called him a "good guy", adding that it was better if a profession banker took the job rather than a politician.

Regarding the state-run gas firm Naftogaz, about which the EBRD has been most vocal in its concerns, Malige added it was on everyone's radar as a bellwether of anti-corruption efforts.

"We had very constructive dialogue with the authorities and I am now confident that we are in a much better place," he said.

"We are pushing for the second stage of the agreed plan to improve corporate governance in Naftogaz: giving the board the actual responsibilities and accountabilities that comply with good international standards of corporate governance," he said.

Progress was also needed this year on land reform, pension reform, state owned enterprises reform and their eventual privatisation, he added.

Malige also mentioned two other crucial jobs that need filling alongside the one at the central bank.

"The head of the state fiscal service, which will have to reinvent the service to root out the corruption," he said.

"The head of the state property fund too, who can make a very important difference in the privatisation programme, which has been a total failure so far." (Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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