Protests grow in Ukraine against government’s decision to lift moratorium on land sales

The Ukrainian parliament approved bill No. 2178-10 on November 13, which opens up the agricultural land market in the country

November 25, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Ukraine land bill
The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) and the Komsomol (communist youth) have declared strong opposition to the government's land bill, and have expressed their support and solidarity to the protests against it. (Photo: 112 UA)

The Ukrainian government’s decision to lift the long-standing moratorium prohibiting the sale of farmland in the country has drawn widespread criticism from various groups including farmers, communes, the Communist Party as well as analysts. The moratorium has been in place since 2001. 

Political analyst Ruslan Bortnik said that the intention of lifting the moratorium on land sales is to facilitate foreigners buying Ukrainian land “for a penny,” while the citizens are not left with much. While the move may give some short-term benefits to the Ukrainian economy, Bortnik explained to media that the long-term implications for the economy will be largely negative.

On November 17, the Day of Agricultural Workers of Ukraine, a rally was held near the president’s office in the capital Kyiv, against the opening up of the land market in the country. According to reports, about two hundred people gathered with posters reading “No to the sale of land!” and “A referendum on land!”. Under the leadership of Mikhail Kononovich, members of the Komsomol (Communist youth) also attended the protest and extended their support and solidarity. Komsomol is affiliated with the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU).

Kononovich emphasized that “the authorities deliberately cleared the political field of our country of the left parties so that they would not interfere with lowering social standards and selling land. For residents of Ukraine, the sale of land is our Stalingrad. Not one step back! No sale of land! ”

On November 13, Ukrainian farmers had marched to the parliament in protest, after the parliament approved bill No. 2178-10 on the opening up of the agricultural land market, in the first reading of the bill itself. According to the bill, the Ukrainian land will be open for sale from October 1, 2020. Then onward, citizens of Ukraine and Ukrainian legal entities will be able to acquire land, as well as, on an exceptional basis, foreign citizens and companies.

In their statement, the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) has accused that the new government led by Volodymyr Zelensky is trying hard to follow the diktats of the Congress of the US and the International Monetary Fund, while ignoring the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian people, particularly the villagers and farmers. Under the guise of carrying out ‘practical reforms’, the abolition of the moratorium on agricultural trade openly encourages foreigners to buy Ukrainian land. As per the KPU, legal prerequisites are being created for the final destruction of the most important branch of the national economy, which produces most of the gross domestic product.

The moratorium has been has been in effect since 2001, instituted to regulate land relations in the country and create infrastructure for the land market. In December 2018, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) extended the moratorium on agricultural land sales until January 1, 2020. However, in July this year, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Oleksiy Honcharuk, announced that the government is planning to lift the ban and launch a reformed land market by the end of 2019. On September 25, the governmental land market bill was registered at the Ukrainian parliament, and during October, the Agrarian Committee of parliament recommended adopting the land market bill.