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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid