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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in the Middle East

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghettoi
X
Kane Farabaugh
August 30, 2014 1:20 AM
When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid