IMF offers Ukraine up to $18 billion in loans

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A picture taken on March 4, 2014 shows valves of a gas pipeline not far from Kiev (AFP/File, Andrey Sinitsin)
The International Monetary Fund announced on Thursday a $14-$18 billion bailout for Ukraine to avert bankruptcy for the crisis-hit country amid its escalating standoff with Russia. 
The IMF says the $14 to $18 billion it will provide will combine with contributions from the international community to total up to $27 billion in total assistance in the next two years.
Without the IMF-mandated austerity measures, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament Thursday Ukraine\’s economy could contract by 10 percent this year. He said the country is on the brink of "economic and financial bankruptcy."
The IMF\’s required reforms for Ukraine include a flexible exchange rate, higher energy prices and a restructuring of Ukrainian energy giant Naftogaz. 
The reforms will hit the population hard, which could affect support for the interim government. 
Also Thursday, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced she will run in Ukraine\’s presidential elections set for May 25. 
Tymoshenko, who narrowly lost Ukraine\’s 2010 presidential election to Viktor Yanukovych, was jailed in 2011 for abuse of office linked to a gas deal she had brokered with Russia. She was released last month after Yanukovych was removed as president and fled to Russia.
Ukraine\’s current, interim government took over after weeks of anti-government protests in Kyiv that forced Mr. Yanukovych\’s ouster last month. The protests began in November after Yanukovych backed off from signing a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. 
Ukraine then faced tensions with Russia when Russian forces moving into Crimea and Moscow annexed the peninsula. 
The United States has also pledged $1 billion (720 million euros) in loan guarantees while Japan has promised up to $1.5 billion (1.1 billion euros).
The United States and the European Union say the annexation is illegal. 
A World Bank bank report Wednesday said if Moscow\’s standoff with the West over Crimea intensifies, the Russian economy could shrink nearly two percent in 2014. The report predicts investors could pull $150 billion out of the country.
Source: Agencies

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