National Bank of Ukraine Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko was accused by his deputy of censorship and of shutting out his colleagues in policy decisions, re-igniting concerns about central bank independence.
First Deputy Governor Kateryna Rozhkova told Novoe Vremya television in an interview this week that relations among the decision-making committee have become so strained they only communicate in group meetings on Zoom.
“There’s actually a rollback” to centralised, Soviet-style decision-making, she said in the interview broadcast on Wednesday. “If there are any questions and I comment on something, he comments on something. It does not mean that we communicate with him.”
The interview comes at a sensitive time in Ukraine’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund after concerns over the central bank’s independence derailed loan talks last year. The central bank’s then-governor Yakiv Smoliy, a well-respected figure in the international policy-making world, resigned in July citing “political pressures,” and suggested political interference in policy matters was threatening the bank’s independence. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said at the time that preserving the bank’s independence remained a priority.
These recent tensions will come as a troubling sign for investors who have kept a close eye on the central bank after the IMF postponed the disbursement of new loan tranches under a $5 billion programme following Smoliy’s resignation.
Tensions escalated further after Rozhkova posted on Facebook on Wednesday that the central bank has attempted to censor her interview.
“My interview for Novoe Vremya (NV) in its original form was forbidden by the management of the communications department of the National Bank,” she said in the post. “This is another example of censorship in the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), which appeared in August 2020 after the change of leadership of the NBU and a number of personnel changes in key departments.”
She said that a few hours after giving the interview, Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko signed an order banning comment on the internal situation in the bank, personnel policy and cooperation with the IMF.
The central bank denied it had censored Rozhkova, saying she was asked to edit the text to reflect bank policy. “One-voice policy is important,” the central bank’s spokeswoman Galyna Kalachova wrote on Facebook.