News / Europe

    Kyiv Protesters Gather, EU Dangles Aid Promise

    Pro-European integration protestors wave flags in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 12, 2013.
    Pro-European integration protestors wave flags in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 12, 2013.
    Reuters
    Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in central Kyiv, rebuilding barricades torn down by police, on Thursday as the European Union held out a promise of increased aid for Ukraine if it signed a trade and cooperation pact.
     
    Ukraine's first deputy prime minister Serhiy Arbuzov flew to Brussels with a high-level delegation seeking billions of euros of aid from the EU in return for signing the agreement, which Kyiv suddenly backed away from last month.
     
    He said Ukraine, which is on the brink of bankruptcy, would “soon sign” the accord, but declined to provide any date.
     
    EU enlargement chief Stefan Fuele pledged more aid to Kiev if it signed the agreement, and to help it negotiate a loan from the IMF, but gave no figures.
     
    After hours of talks with Arbuzov, Fuele warned that Ukraine faced looming financial crisis.
     
    “We need to help Ukraine to restore rapidly the confidence not only of its citizens, but also that of international investors and creditors as a stable and predictable economy,” he told reporters.
     
    Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was quoted as saying on Wednesday he had asked the EU for 20 billion euros ($27 billion) in aid to offset the cost of signing the EU deal.
     
    A sudden decision by President Viktor Yanukovych on Nov. 21 to walk away from a trade-and-political agreement with the EU and revive trade with Ukraine's old Soviet master has brought hundreds of thousands on to the streets in a chain of weekend rallies, each one larger than the one before it.
     
    Russian President Vladimir Putin, concerned protests could yet induce Yanukovych to seal the trade agreement with the EU to Moscow's detriment, painted a picture of a secure future for Ukraine in a Russian-led alliance.
     
    “Our integration project is based on equal rights and real economic interests,” said Putin, referring to a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan which he plans to develop into a political and trading bloc to be known as the Eurasian Union.
     
    “I'm sure achieving Eurasian integration will only increase interest [in it] from our other neighbors, including from our Ukrainian partners ... I hope that all political sides can successfully reach an agreement in the interests of the Ukrainian people,” he said in a state-of-the-nation address.
     
    A decision to sign the EU deal after all would be likely to infuriate Moscow.
     
    European officials are in discussion with the IMF, the World Bank and other major financial bodies on ways of helping the ex-Soviet republic should it decide to sign the free-trade agreement with the EU after all.
     
    Putin had threatened to respond to such a deal with economic sanctions against Ukraine, which has huge debts and unpaid gas bills outstanding with Moscow. Ukraine's ultimate decision could be decisive to Putin's Eurasian Union plan.
     
    Battalions of riot police withdrew on Wednesday from a protest camp in central Kiev after moving against demonstrators in the early hours in an angry confrontation.
     
    Streaming In
     
    But more people were streaming into the snowbound capital for the weekend to boost the 10,000 or so crammed onto Independence Square, focal point of the unrest. About 70,000 extra people from three areas of western Ukraine alone were heading for the capital, citizens' protest  groups said.
     
    Demonstrators have re-built barricades, torn down by police, using public benches, metal barriers and wire-netting to fence off the square, known simply as the 'Maidan' in the revolutionary lexicon.
     
    The protests began as pro-Europe demonstrations but have now morphed into a broader show of street anger against perceived corruption and sleaze in the country Yanukovich has led for nearly four years.
     
    After his talks with Arbuzov, Fuele said that, if Ukraine gave a clear commitment to sign the deal, the EU would prepare a roadmap for implementing the accord.
     
    If Ukraine signed, the EU was ready to help it by topping up IMF loans and stepping up financial aid, Fuele said.
     
    EU aid to Ukraine would only get “bigger and bigger” if it signed the agreement, he said without giving figures.
     
    Arbuzov was joined in Brussels by the ministers of finance, economy and revenue and duties, and the central bank head.
     
    At stake is the future of a country of 46 million people, torn between popular hope of joining the European mainstream and the demands of Russia, which controls the flow of cheap natural gas needed to stave off bankruptcy.
     
    After Yanukovych met Putin on Dec. 6, Azarov said the two sides had agreed a strategic partnership.
     
    Some believe that Yanukovych may sign a series of agreements - almost certainly bringing cheaper gas for Ukraine and possibly credits - in Moscow on Dec. 17.
     
    The crisis has added to the financial hardship of a country on the brink of bankruptcy. The cost of insuring Ukraine's debt against default has hit four-year highs.
     
    It now costs more than $1 million a year for five years to insure $10 million in Ukrainian debt over that term, reflecting high default risk.
     
    The most Brussels has so far offered is 610 million euros in macro-economic assistance.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.