The United States is urging Ukraine to start jailing corrupt officials, after months of political turmoil that has delayed billions of dollars in foreign loans.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said in Kyiv Wednesday that she was encouraged by Ukraine’s commitment to reforms but stressed that steps must be taken to counter corruption.
"Overall, I go home encouraged by the commitment of all the political forces to continuing and accelerating reform, economic reform, anti-corruption reform, in particular judicial reform... It's time to start locking up people who have ripped off the Ukrainian population for too long and it is time to eradicate the cancer of corruption," she said.
Nuland called for greater political unity, saying Ukraine must "stay the course" with a $17.5 billion bailout program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a $1.7 billion third installment of which has been delayed since last October.
A third $1 billion loan guarantee is in the offing from the U.S., she said, but it all depends on the government adhering to the terms of the IMF program.
Nuland also indicated that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intends to visit Ukraine this spring.
FILE - A member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic forces walks atop a self-propelled artillery gun during tactical training exercises in Ukraine's Donetsk region, Feb. 4, 2016. Despite a peace deal, skirmishes between Kyiv forces and pro-Russia separatists continue in eastern Ukraine.
On elections in eastern Ukraine
Regarding elections in eastern Ukraine as stipulated by a peace deal between Kyiv and pro-Russia separatists engaged in conflict there, Nuland said that Washington was not setting a specific deadline as was reported Tuesday, but added that the so-called Minsk agreement requires proper preparations for elections, including sufficient security and OSCE access in the Donbas region.
“We have put no date on when elections need to happen,” Nuland said countering an earlier statement by a Ukrainian lawmaker who after meeting Nuland Monday said she was setting a July deadline for the elections. “We have made absolutely clear that Minsk requires that there be sufficient security and OSCE access and the ability of candidates to ballot and the ability of citizens to hear from candidates before you can have an election."
Holding elections in the east is seen by Ukraine's European partners – Germany and France, who mediated the Minsk deal - as a way to end the two-year conflict in eastern Ukraine that has claimed about 9,200 lives.
VOA's Ukrainian service contributed to this report.