West Grants Ukraine $14-18 Billion Bailout
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on Thursday that it is granting a $14-18 billion bailout for the embattled country of Ukraine, to help it stabilize and recover from debt, and unlock financial credits worth up to $27 billion.
"The mission has reached a staff-level agreement with the authorities of Ukraine on an economic reform program," the IMF said in a statement. "The financial support from the broader international community that the program will unlock amounts to $27 billion over the next two years. Of this, assistance from the IMF will range between $14-18 billion, with the precise amount to be determined once all bilateral and multilateral support is accounted for."
The program, however, is not an act of blind charity; the IMF has only agreed to the aid in exchange for a tough economic reform program - the details of which the Ukrainian parliament balked at, according to Reuters.
Austerity measures include allowing the national currency, the hryvnia, to compete more freely against the dollar, overhauling finances in the energy sector, increasing gas prices, and following strict financial policies. IMF mission chief Nikolay Gueorguiev said another important step was to pass a law to restrain government corruption and reduce the state budget.
Prime Minister Artseniy Yatsenyuk is reportedly on board with the austerity measures.
"Ukraine is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy," Yatsenyuk said, warning that inflation in 2014 would be between 12 and 14 percent. Unless laws were passed to support the IMF's demands, the GDP could fall 10% during the year and Ukraine could default, he said.
In addition, the House and Senate in Washington approved a $1 billion aid package and new sanctions against Russians and Ukrainians deemed responsible for the Crimea annexation, the New York Times reported Thursday night. The move is yet another drastic show of support for Kiev after a tumultuous month fighting off fears of a full-scale Russian invasion.
International condemnation of Russian annexation
International attention has focused on the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which has snowballed since spiraling into crisis in December. Concern is rising that the Crimean takeover could turn into a precedent for Ukraine to splinter further - especially over protests erupting in the pro-Russian province Donetsk.
The Crimean peninsula has become the focus of the conflict, which exploded earlier this month after 6,000 Russian troops invaded an airport in the Russian-speaking Ukrainian province. Moscow formally annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea region last week, days after the controversial referendum in which a majority of Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine for Russia.
Over 40,000 Russian troops are now suspected to be on the border between Ukraine and Russia, leading to even greater fears that the conflict could continue to escalate.
On Thursday evening, the United Nations joined the Western condemnations of the escalation - and of what many perceive as Russian aggression in the conflict - by calling the secession referendum invalid.