July 15, 2020 / 7:50 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Ukraine leader nominates Shevchenko as new Central Bank head

(Adds analyst’s comments)

KYIV, July 15 (Reuters) - Ukraine’s president on Wednesday nominated Kyrylo Shevchenko, head of the state-run Ukrgasbank, to become the new governor of the central bank two weeks after his predecessor quit over what he called systematic political pressure.

The presidential offer has been published on the parliament site.

Shevchenko’s nomination still has to be approved by parliament. Lawmakers are likely to vote on Thursday.

The sudden resignation of Yakiv Smoliy rattled markets and sparked concerns at the International Monetary Fund whose $5-billion stand-by assistance for Ukraine is contingent on the central bank’s independence.

The IMF earlier this week appealed directly to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to maintain the central bank’s independence, pointing to “concerns about the pressures being put on the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU).”

Zelenskiy reassured IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva he would nominate an independent technocrat who would continue the central bank’s independent course.

Shevchenko, 47, has been tipped by local media as the next governor since February. He criticised monetary policy under Smoliy as hawkish and for letting the hryvnia currency appreciate, while praising the government’s efforts to make loans cheaper for businesses.

Zelenskiy praised Ukrgasbank as the first bank to issue cheaper loans to small businesses through a government programme.

Lawmakers in Zelenskiy’s party, including Danylo Hetmantsev, head of the parliamentary finance committee, have praised Shevchenko’s professionalism, unlike foreign experts.

“Few people know much about him - not proven as a reformer. No one really knows where he stands on key issues,” Timothy Ash at Blue Bay Asset Management said in the first comments after the announcement. (Reporting by Natalia Zinets, additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Ilya Zhegulev; Editing by Sandra Maler and Jonathan Oatis)

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