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Ukraine lifts ban on sale of farmland in bid to receive international funds

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Volodymyr Zelenskiy   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Ukraine's parliament voted to lift a ban on the sale of farmland in an extraordinary session of parliament Monday night.

The vote could allow the country to get $8 billion (€7.3 billion) worth of aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

MPs, wearing masks and gloves amidst a coronavirus quarantine in the country, voted to open up the land market to citizens next year.

Agriculture is an important sector in Ukraine and the country has 32.5 million hectares of arable land, according to the UN. That's the largest area in Europe after Russia.

Speaking in parliament Monday night, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy stressed the importance of getting the IMF loan.

"It is really important for us, to sign the memorandum with the IMF, and you know well that the two main conditions were the land law and the banking law," Zelenskiy said.

Last week, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said that "adoption of legislation to improve the bank resolution framework and on land reform would allow moving forward quickly with finalising the parameters of the new arrangement, with larger access than previously envisaged."

Earlier Monday, lawmakers approved a banking law that prevents former owners of banks that were nationalised or liquidated from regaining ownership rights.

Some said that the bill, among others, targets billionaire tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky, whose Privatbank was nationalized in 2016 and who sought to get it back using his connections to Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy has since tried to distance himself from the tycoon.

According to Zelenskiy, once Ukraine fulfills the conditions outlined by the IMF, it will receive the first batch of funds — $1.75-$2 billion — in 15 days.

"We agreed with the management of the IMF," Zelenskiy said.