By Peter Leonard
KIEV, UKRAINE: The world rushed Thursday to help Ukraine, with the International Monetary Fund pledging up to $18 billion in loans, the U.N. condemning the vote that drove Crimea into Russian hands and the U.S. Congress backing even harsher sanctions against Russia.
Yet even with such intensive help to prop up the teetering economy, Ukraine’s prime minister warned of painful times ahead from economic reforms that were sure to drive up energy prices.
Meanwhile, Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the country’s most divisive figures, announced she would run for president — a move sure to impact Ukraine’s turbulent politics.
President Barack Obama called the swell of international support a “concrete signal of how the world is united with Ukraine.”
In a passionate address to parliament in Kiev, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned that Ukraine was “on the brink of economic and financial bankruptcy” and laid out the fixes needed to put the country back on track.
“The time has come to tell the truth, to do difficult and unpopular things,” Yatsenyuk said, adding that Ukraine was short $25.8 billion.
The IMF loan, which is expected to range between $14 billion and $18 billion, hinges on structural reforms that Ukraine has pledged to undertake.
Ukraine, a nation of 46 million, is battling to install a semblance of normalcy since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February after months of protests ignited by his decision to back away from closer relations with the EU and turn toward Russia. Over the last few weeks, an interim government has formed, Ukraine lost Crimea to Russia, and further possible military incursions by Russia are feared.
In Washington, Congress overwhelmingly backed legislation in the House and Senate to aid cash-strapped Ukraine and punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea.
On a voice vote, the Senate approved a measure that would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and give Obama broad authority to impose more sanctions on Russia and President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
The House endorsed a different version on a 399-19 vote that also provides assistance to Ukraine and penalizes Russia. Lawmakers hope to send a single bill to the White House for Obama’s signature by week’s end.