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Ukraine's central bank chief resigns after death threats and hate campaign

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Ukraine's central bank Governor Valeria Gontareva tendered her resignation on Monday following years of intense political pressure, a hate campaign and even death threats at a time when the country is enduring a deep recession.

Gontareva had been championed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and investors for stringently imposing anti-crisis measures in Kiev. Although some lawmakers and domestic businesses had adjudged the same policies as deplorable.

"I believe my successor will be professional and independent from political currents… But the political pressure will be (there) for anyone in this position," Gontareva told reporters at a press conference on Monday, shortly after submitting her resignation to President Petro Poroshenko.

On March 1, Ukraine's central bank chief had hinted she may not continue in the post for too much longer after a hate campaign had culminated in protestors leaving a coffin outside the main entrance of the central bank.

Under Gontareva's three-year stewardship, Ukraine switched from a pegged to a floating currency and launched a clean-up of the country's banking system. The latter resulted in more than 80 banks, used by vested interests to launder money and pocket bank operations, being shut down.

Domestic politics could derail reforms

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The IMF, which is currently supporting Kiev with a $17.5 billion bailout package, had recently praised Gontareva and her team for "skillfully" managing monetary policy throughout a "very challenging period".

However, the institution led by Christine Lagarde warned at the start of the month that domestic politics could unsettle vital reforms such as increasing the pension age for citizens and lifting a suspension on land sales.

"There is no change in the policy of the central bank," Gontareva declared.

"A floating exchange rate, inflation targeting, modern central bank – all those things that my team and I struggled for so long, remains unchanged. … The (central) bank will continue consistent implementation of the policy that you have seen throughout my presidency," she added.

Gontareva's successor has not yet been identified though both the president and Ukraine's parliament are required to approve the resignation.

Should Gontareva's resignation letter receive approval, the central bank governor appears likely to become another name on the list of pro-reformers to have either quit or have been forced out of their jobs. Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, the head of the national police and the technocrat finance minister had all lost their respective positions before Monday.