Ukraine names ex-finance minister as ambassador to U.S., to upgrade ties post-Trump

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian Finance Minister Oksana Markarova attends a meeting at Presidential Administration headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine named a former finance minister as ambassador to the United States on Thursday, a sign of its push to upgrade ties with Washington under President Joe Biden after it was sucked into an awkward role in Donald Trump’s first impeachment.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said he had appointed Oksana Markarova to focus on establishing “an effective dialogue” with the new administration, and to work with the U.S. Congress to strengthen bipartisan support for Ukraine.

Ukraine hopes to restore the strong backing from Washington it enjoyed early in its seven-year conflict with Russian-backed separatists. It also wants Washington’s help securing badly needed international loans.

It was forced to keep the Trump administration at arms length from mid-2019, after a whistleblower reported a phone call in which then-President Trump asked Zelenskiy to find damaging information about Biden, and about Biden’s son who had worked for a Ukrainian gas company.

Trump, a Republican, was impeached by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives for abuse of office over the affair, before being acquitted last year by the Republican-held Senate, the first of two impeachment trials.

Markarova, 44, led Ukraine’s finance ministry from June 2018-March 2020, and earlier played a major role in talks with the International Monetary Fund and bondholders that resulted in the restructuring of $15 billion of Ukrainian sovereign debt.

The government believes that having her in Washington will help it reach an agreement with the IMF to unlock a $5 billion programme approved last June. The IMF disbursed the first $2.1 billion but has delayed further loans on concerns over anti-corruption reforms.

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