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Obama: IMF Loan to Ukraine is "Significant"

U.S. President Barack Obama says the International Monetary Fund pledge to loan $18 billion to Ukraine is "significant" and will help meet the needs of the Ukrainian people over the long term.

Mr. Obama spoke in Rome Thursday after meetings with Italian leaders. He said Ukrainian officials can show considerable courage and foresight by making the reforms that will help Kyiv grow its economy.

He also said the United States and European Union are "continually hopeful" that Russia will opt for diplomacy and help resolve the crisis over Crimea in a peaceful way.

The IMF says it will give $14 to $18 billion in loans, which combined with contributions from the international community, will total up to $27 billion for Ukraine in the next two years. Ukraine is expected to enact tough reforms in exchange for the funding.

Without the IMF-mandated austerity measures, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament Thursday, the country is on the brink of "economic and financial bankruptcy."

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

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

Also Thursday, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced she will run in Ukraine's presidential elections set for May 25.

Ms. Tymoshenko, who narrowly lost Ukraine's 2010 presidential election to Viktor Yanukovych, was jailed in 2011 for abuse of office linked to a gas deal she reached with Russia. She was released last month after Mr. Yanukovych was removed as president and fled to Russia.

In a statement posted on her website Thursday, Ms. Tymoshenko said one of the reasons she was seeking the presidency was to build up Ukraine's defense capabilities. She said she was convinced she would "be able to defend Ukraine from aggression" and had "all hopes for a return of Russian-occupied Crimea."

Ukraine's interim government took over after weeks of anti-government protests in Kyiv that forced Mr. Yanukovych's ouster last month. The protests began in November after Mr. Yanukovych backed off from signing a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

After Yanukovych's ouster, Russian forces moved into Crimea and Moscow annexed the peninsula. The United States and the European Union say the annexation is illegal.

A World Bank bank report Wednesday said if Moscow's standoff with the West over Crimea intensifies, investors could pull $150 billion out of the country.

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