Ukraine's prime minister orders quick resale of Kryvorizhstal mill after return to state

Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Monday that she had ordered her government to put the Kryvorizhstal steel mill up for sale immediately after it is returned to the state.

Tymoshenko said that the mill's current owners could participate in a new tender for what has become the most controversial privatized property in post-Soviet Ukraine.

"No exclusions," Tymoshenko told journalists. "The former owners can take part in the tender."

The mill was sold last year to former President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk, and another tycoon, Rinat Akhmetov, for US$800 million (Ђ665 million). The sale went through despite reportedly higher offers from bidders in the United States and Russia, and it sparked outrage in Ukraine and abroad.

New President Viktor Yushchenko has called the sale outright theft, and pledged to reverse it.

The government's challenge to last year's privatization is currently working its way through Ukraine's court system.

Tymoshenko said that she hopes that Kryvorizhstal could be reprivatized within one month. It remains unlikely, however, that all the legal issues surrounding the mill will be settled so quickly.

Kryvorizhstal produces about 20 percent of Ukraine's steel and has been considered one of Ukraine's most profitable businesses. There have been some calls among Yushchenko's team to hold onto the mill once it is returned to the state.

Pinchuk has said he is ready to compromise with the government to hold onto the mill, but he said that the government had not responded to his approaches.

Associated Press

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