IMF, Christine Lagarde.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Adam Tinworth, used under CC BY-ND

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde praised Ukraine's economy minister Thursday after Aivaras Abromavicius accused elements within the government of blocking reforms.

The Lithuanian-born Abromavicius, who was appointed in 2014 after Ukraine ousted its former pro-Russian president amid mass protests calling for closer ties with the West, said Wednesday that he was quitting because of "actions directed at paralyzing our work."

Lagarde said he had "conducted some really good and solid reforms," including measure to encourage direct investment in Ukraine.

"I would like to pay tribute to his efforts. His recently announced resignation is of concern," Lagarde said in a live video, in which she answered public questions about emerging market economies.

"If the allegations that he makes in his resignations are correct, then it's obviously an indication that the anti-corruption measures that were committed to by the [Ukrainian] government are not yet working."

She said there was "more progress to be had" on deep-seated corruption problems in the Kiev government, which is embroiled in a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. An IMF-led international bailout has kept the Ukrainian government out of default, in exchange for tough reforms.

Measures including removing energy subsidies have already been carried out.

"We've known all along that in relation to corruption, a lot of work needs to be done," Lagarde said. "And it has to be implemented and forced rigorously, because the authorities are accountable not only to the Ukrainian people but also to the international community."

Abromavicius alleged that senior officials were blocking key reforms that the cash-strapped government needs to implement keep the international support flowing. He singled out Igor Kononenko, a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko, as one of the officials working "behind my back," state news agency Ukrinform reported Wednesday.

Poroshenko has seen his approval ratings plummet since his election in 2014.

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