Ukrainian president's party removes speaker in dispute over anti-oligarch bill

FILE PHOTO: Dmytro Razumkov waits before a vote to appoint new Parliamentary Speaker during the first session of newly-elected parliament in Kiev, Ukraine August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's party on Tuesday voted to remove the parliamentary speaker after a clash over legislation to tackle the influence of oligarchs.

Zelenskiy's Servant of the People party voted to suspend speaker Dmytro Razumkov for two days in preparation for another vote on Thursday, when he is expected to be dismissed. The party commands a majority in parliament.

Razumkov was a member of Zelenskiy's core election team when the president won a landslide victory in 2019. But as speaker he opposed the quick passing of legislation intended to limit the influence of oligarchs on politics and business, and to place additional scrutiny on officials and politicians who have dealings with oligarchs.

Opposition lawmakers say the legislation, which was initiated by Zelenskiy, gives too much power to the president and creates more avenues for corruption. Razumkov wanted the bill referred to the Venice Commission, a European rights body.

The legislation was passed last month.

Oleksandr Kornienko, the leader of the Servant of the People party, accused Razumkov of unlawfully blocking the parliamentary agenda. Razumkov denied wrongdoing.

"You can follow the law or political expediency. I see what is happening in the chamber today: if there is a desire to go differently, and not according to the law, this is the right of the people's deputies," Razumkov said before the vote.

Representatives of the opposition accused Zelenskiy's party of destroying democracy by dismissing the speaker.

They "want to have their own 100%-pocket chairman of the Verkhovna Rada," said Iryna Herashchenko from the European Solidarity faction, referringto parliament.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Robert Birsel)

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