April 27, 2016 / 10:32 AM / 2 years ago

U.S. diplomat Nuland says optimistic about Ukraine reforms

KIEV (Reuters) - U.S Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday she was encouraged by signs of commitment to reform from Ukraine’s new government and urged Kiev to start jailing corrupt officials.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaks during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Months of political turmoil in the run-up to the cabinet reshuffle - the biggest since an uprising in 2014 brought in a pro-Western leadership - have derailed efforts to root out corruption, delaying billions of dollars in foreign loans.

“Overall, I go home encouraged by the commitment of all the political forces ‎to continuing and accelerating reform, economic reform, anti-corruption reform, in particular judicial reform,” she said at the end of her first official visit to Kiev since the political shakeup earlier in April.

Former prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk resigned two weeks ago and was replaced by Volodymyr Groysman, a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko.

“Obviously corruption is still a very deep problem. It’s time to start locking up people who have ripped off the Ukrainian population for too long,” she said.

Nuland called for greater political unity, insisting Ukraine must “stay the course” with a $17.5 billion bailout program from the International Monetary Fund, whose third tranche of $1.7 billion has been delayed since last October.

Pro-European reformists in Ukraine have previously expressed concern that the latest political reboot will not eliminate the influence of powerful business interests on policymaking.

Nuland said further U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine - a third $1-billion loan guarantee is in the offing - would depend on the government sticking to the IMF program.

Reporting by Matthias Williams; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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