No foreign land sales in Ukraine without referendum: president

Ukraine will have no wholesale land sales to foreign investors, with any final say on the liberalisation of the market for agricultural land to be put to a public vote, the country’s president said on Monday.

During his election campaign earlier this year, president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of opening agricultural land sales to overseas investors and that opening its 33 million hectares of agricultural land to foreign capital would provide a boost to state coffers.

But, with the subject a touchy political issue in Ukraine, Zelensky is now offering a final say on the matter through a referendum.

"Only Ukrainian citizens and companies, created by Ukrainian citizens, will have the right to sell and buy land," Zelensky said in a video on Facebook on Monday, saying that a referendum will be held on whether or not foreigners can buy land.


At least two bills on the matter are working their way through parliament.

The first, proposed by the Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture, would allow for foreign ownership as early as 2020.

A second bill – supported by deputies – prohibits foreign ownership of land before 2024.

However, in the bill’s current guise this exclusion would not apply to companies that have been in Ukraine for at least three years.

In Monday's address, Zelensky put a December 1 deadline for parliament to agree on what the law will look like, although there is nothing legally binding about his announcement.

Rumours that the first reading of a land market bill will be presented to parliament on Tuesday could not be confirmed at the time of press, with no official notice available on lawmakers’ agendas.


Land reform has long been a hotly-contested issue in Ukraine, with foreign investors currently only able to lease access to agricultural property.

Memories of turbulent market liberalisation in the 1990s have fed into public scepticism about the issue.

An October study from pollster Tsentr Razumkova showed only 20% of respondents are in favour of opening land sales to foreigners.