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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
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 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 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.

All About America

AppleAndroid