News / Europe

Obama Hails IMF Loan to Ukraine, Unity on Russia

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (not pictured) following their meeting in Rome March 27, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (not pictured) following their meeting in Rome March 27, 2014.
VOA News
Hailing the U.S. partnership with Italy and all of Europe as a “cornerstone of our security," President Barack Obama hailed the transatlantic unity on the issue of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and welcomed an assistance package for Ukraine, just approved International Monetary Fund.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during a visit to Rome, Obama called the IMF decision to extend Ukraine up to $18 billion in loans a “big step forward.”  The U.S. Congress on Thursday approved another $1 billion.

Obama expressed hope that in light of current tensions with Russia it will help stabilize Ukraine’s economy, meet the needs of the Ukrainian people in the long term, and put the country on a path of growth similar to that of Poland.

Referring to the loan package as the international community’s “concrete signal to Ukraine,” he also said he was hopeful that it will enable the country’s new government to conduct the reforms needed to leave corruption in the past.

On Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Obama reiterated international condemnation of the move and expressed hope that Moscow will still opt to resolve the crisis in a peaceful way.

Obama added that the U.S. will do everything possible to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

UNGA vote on Crimea

Meanwhile, the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution declaring invalid Crimea's Moscow-backed referendum earlier this month on seceding from Ukraine, in a vote that Western nations said highlighted Russia's isolation.
A digital display shows the results of a vote on a resolution upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine at United Nations headquarters, March 27, 2014.A digital display shows the results of a vote on a resolution upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine at United Nations headquarters, March 27, 2014.
x
A digital display shows the results of a vote on a resolution upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine at United Nations headquarters, March 27, 2014.
A digital display shows the results of a vote on a resolution upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine at United Nations headquarters, March 27, 2014.


There were 100 votes in favor, 11 against and 58 abstentions in the 193-nation assembly. A number of countries did not participate in the vote.

Western diplomats said the number of “yes” votes was higher than expected despite what they said were Moscow's aggressive lobbying efforts against the resolution.

The UNGA resolution echoes a text Moscow vetoed earlier this month in the Security Council. The approved declaration dismisses Crimea's vote as “having no validity [or] basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea….”

Although the resolution is non-binding, Western diplomats said it sends a strong political message about Russia's lack of broad support on the Crimean issue.

Aside from Russia, voting against the resolution were Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Russia troop build-up

Meanwhile, the head of Ukraine's national security council, Andriy Parubiy, says Russia has close to 100,000 troops along Ukraine's borders in the north, south, and east.

He said during a webcast to a Washington audience that Russian forces are in full readiness to strike.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last week the solders are involved in "springtime exercises." He assured U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that they would not cross the border.

Western experts believe the number of Russian forces near eastern and southern Ukraine is closer to 30,000.
 
A Ukrainian border guard stands at a Russian-Ukrainian border crossing near the village of Uspenka, in eastern Ukraine, March 25, 2014.A Ukrainian border guard stands at a Russian-Ukrainian border crossing near the village of Uspenka, in eastern Ukraine, March 25, 2014.
x
A Ukrainian border guard stands at a Russian-Ukrainian border crossing near the village of Uspenka, in eastern Ukraine, March 25, 2014.
A Ukrainian border guard stands at a Russian-Ukrainian border crossing near the village of Uspenka, in eastern Ukraine, March 25, 2014.
Quoting two unnamed Obama administration officials, CNN has reported that, according to a U.S. assessment of the situation, the likelihood of a Russian incursion into eastern parts of Ukraine is now greater than it has been before.

The officials have been quoted as having seen several worrying signs in the past three to four days.

Countering Moscow's claims that Russian troops positioned near the border with Ukraine are conducting routine military exercises, the Pentagon says that there is no indication supporting that.

"They continue to reinforce, and it continues to be unclear what exactly the intent there is... We've seen no specific indications that exercises are taking place," said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby on Thursday.

An incursion into eastern Ukraine, if deep enough, could enable Russia to establish a land connection to Crimea. Currently, Russia has access to the Black Sea peninsula only by air and sea.

From local sources, VOA has learned that the Russian military has established a field hospital in the Bryansk region, about 20 kilometers from the Russia-Ukraine border, that some 60 train cars have arrived near the border with supplies and that the frontier is being patrolled by more than a dozen Russian drones.
 
The information provided to VOA could not be independently confirmed.

US Senate, House pass bills on Ukraine

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives easily passed bills on Thursday to provide aid to Ukraine, back a $1 billion loan guarantee for the Kyiv government and impose sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The Senate passed its legislation by voice vote. The House voted for its legislation by 399-19.

The bills also calls for additional defense equipment and military training to countries in central and eastern Europe, including Ukraine, although exact assistance levels are still to be determined.

 
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (L) and ranking member Senator Bob Corker (R) hold a news conference after a Senate vote on an aid package for Ukraine at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 27, 2014.U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (L) and ranking member Senator Bob Corker (R) hold a news conference after a Senate vote on an aid package for Ukraine at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 27, 2014.
x
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (L) and ranking member Senator Bob Corker (R) hold a news conference after a Senate vote on an aid package for Ukraine at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 27, 2014.
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (L) and ranking member Senator Bob Corker (R) hold a news conference after a Senate vote on an aid package for Ukraine at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 27, 2014.
In a statement following the vote in the upper chamber of the U.S. legislature, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, praised the bill’s passage. 

“With today’s vote, the Senate sent a clear message of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and indignation for those responsible for the invasion of... Crimea. Russia must be held accountable for its blatant violations of international agreements.”

According to Cardin, the punitive measures the bill imposes should make clear to Russia's president that there are costs to pay for illicit actions.

"The sanctions leveled by Congress are intended to show that Mr. Putin’s inability to conform to international norms, and honor Russia’s agreements, will come at a heavy price," said Cardin.

The two chambers will now have to agree on how to handle minor differences between the two pieces of legislation before a final bill can be submitted for President Obama's signature.

IMF pledges assistance to Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund has pledged to provide Ukraine with up to $18 billion in loans.

But the country must enact tough economic reforms in exchange.

The IMF says the $14 to $18 billion it will provide will combine with contributions from the international community to total up to $27 billion in total assistance in the next two years.

Without the IMF-mandated austerity measures, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament Thursday Ukraine's economy could contract by 10 percent this year. He said the country is on the brink of "economic and financial bankruptcy."

The IMF statement Thursday says Ukraine's recent economic policies have dramatically slowed growth and brought foreign currency reserves to a "critically low level."

The IMF's required reforms for Ukraine include a flexible exchange rate, higher energy prices for consumers and a restructuring of Ukrainian energy giant Naftogaz.

The reforms will hit the population hard, which could affect support for the interim government.

The White House, in a statement relased Thursday called the IMF loan "a powerful sign of support from the international community for the Ukrainian government, as we help them stabilize and grow their economy, and move their democracy forward."

Tymoshenko launches presidential bid

Ukrainian former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, released from jail last month after her arch-foe Viktor Yanukovych fled from power, announced on Thursday she would run again for president in an election slated for May 25.

Yulia Tymoshenko is seen speaking at a news conference in Kyiv, March 27, 2014.Yulia Tymoshenko is seen speaking at a news conference in Kyiv, March 27, 2014.
x
Yulia Tymoshenko is seen speaking at a news conference in Kyiv, March 27, 2014.
Yulia Tymoshenko is seen speaking at a news conference in Kyiv, March 27, 2014.
Tymoshenko, 53, a powerful speaker known for a trademark hair-braid, served twice as prime minister and ran for president in 2010, only to be narrowly defeated in a run-off vote by Yanukovych.

Yanukovych subsequently launched a campaign against Tymoshenko and her allies and she was jailed in 2011 for abuse of office linked to a gas deal she brokered with Russia in 2009.

She served two years of a seven-year term, mainly under prison guard in a hospital in Kharkiv, before being released when Yanukovych fled on February 20 and was subsequently ousted by parliament.
 
Some information for this report was provided by VOA's Michael Bowman, as well as AP, AFP and Reuters.

 
 

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid