Zelensky signs law strengthening financial monitoring of politicians

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed into law an important piece of legislation on October 26, marking a crucial step on the country's path toward European Union (EU) membership. This law focuses on financial monitoring of politically exposed persons (PEPs) and extends the period of monitoring for government officials who, due to their influential positions, are more susceptible to corruption. The monitoring period has been extended from three years to a lifetime.

The Ukrainian parliament, Verkhovna Rada, approved this bill on October 17, with 276 lawmakers voting in favor. The goal of this measure is to discourage politicians from using their positions for personal enrichment by subjecting their financial activities to heightened scrutiny beyond their time in office.

This legislation is not only a significant step towards combating corruption but also aligns with the requirements of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak emphasized its importance in the upcoming negotiations for Ukraine's integration with the EU.

In the coming weeks, the European Commission is reportedly preparing to give a positive assessment of Ukraine's reform efforts. This assessment could lead to EU leaders making a formal decision to initiate entry talks with Ukraine in December. It signifies a significant stride toward Ukraine's potential EU membership.

Infrastructure Minister denies suspension of Ukrainian Black Sea corridor

Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, has refuted reports suggesting that the country's temporary grain corridor in the Black Sea ceased operations on October 26. He clarified that the information about the suspension of the corridor is false, emphasizing that all established routes for civilian vessels to move to and from the ports of the Big Odesa (Oblast) are still operational.

The temporary grain corridor, which allows vessels to navigate along Ukraine's coastline, has been in use since September 16, following the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July after Russia's withdrawal. This corridor has proven successful, with 33 ships exporting 1.3 million metric tons of agricultural products and other goods. Presently, 23 ships are loading at the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi.

While the temporary corridor has not yet reached the export levels of the previous initiative, it has the potential to export 2-2.5 million tons per month, according to Deputy Head of the Agrarian Council Denys Marchuk. Nevertheless, the threat from Russia remains, and many ship owners are cautious about using this route, particularly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian jets armed with Kinzhal ballistic missiles would permanently patrol the Black Sea.

Amid export challenges, Ukraine is seeking to increase its grain exports, as substantial grain stockpiles have accumulated in the country. Ukrainian officials aim to address these issues and maintain the flow of grain exports through various means, including the temporary grain corridor.

New US House speaker says aid requests for Ukraine, Israel should be split

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, announced that there is a consensus among Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to consider the funding requests for Ukraine and Israel separately. This decision could pose a challenge to President Joe Biden's efforts to secure support for both allies amid growing opposition to aid for Ukraine within the Republican Party. The White House had combined military assistance for Ukraine and Israel in a $160 billion supplemental request to Congress.

Johnson stated that the U.S. would continue supporting Ukraine but emphasized the need for greater accountability regarding funds already spent. He expressed concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions and potential implications if Ukraine were to fall under Russian control.

The Biden administration had requested Congress to approve $61.4 billion in assistance for Ukraine and $14.3 billion for Israel. Johnson indicated that House Republicans would propose a slightly larger package worth $14.5 billion for Israel.

Mike Johnson, a Republican Congressman from Louisiana and one of former President Donald Trump's staunch supporters, was elected as the new House Speaker on October 25. He had previously voted against a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine in May 2022, citing a focus on addressing domestic affordability challenges.