Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Saving Ukraine As Country Faces Dire Need for Economic Help

Ukrainians in Kiev on Monday lit candles and placed flowers in memory of antigovernment demonstrators who were killed last week in clashes with the police. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times
With a manhunt underway for the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was charged on Monday with mass murder, officials in Parliament pushed ahead with the monumental task of rebuilding the collapsed government. The country’s most pressing problem, however, is largely out of their control: a fast-approaching economic disaster that they cannot solve without international assistance.

The new speaker, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, admitted as much, warning in an open letter to the Ukrainian people on Sunday that “Ukraine is now in a pre-default condition and sliding into the abyss.”

On Monday, Parliament accepted the surprise resignation of Ihor Sorkin, the head of the Ukrainian National Bank, and approved a replacement, Stepan Kubiv, who said one of his top priorities would be to secure aid from the International Monetary Fund.

Russia had extended a lifeline of $15 billion in loans and cheap gas, but the Kremlin has suspended that aid in response to the political uncertainty in Ukraine. Russian officials continued their saber-rattling on Monday, with Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev dismissing the current government as backed by “Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks” and saying that the leaders in Parliament were not legitimate.

It was not clear when or if financial assistance promised by Europe and the United States would arrive. Though the West is claiming victory in the tug of war with Russia over Ukraine, neither the European Union nor the United States has done anything more than make promises.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, was in Kiev on Monday, visiting Parliament and meeting throughout the day with lawmakers and others. For the moment, though, it seemed that all she was able to offer was moral support.

Gerry Rice, a spokesman for the International Monetary Fund, which would have to provide the billions of dollars in urgently needed credit, issued a statement on Monday saying only, “We are talking to all interested parties.”

The Obama administration said it was prepared to provide financial assistance beyond that from the I.M.F., but it did not say how much.


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