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IMF to help Ukraine with up to $18 billion bailout

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 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 — "equivalent to the entire state budget for this year."

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. In the past 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. Lawmakers hope to send a single bill to the White House for Obama's signature by week's end.

Meanwhile, in a sweeping rebuke of Moscow, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly affirmed Ukraine's territorial integrity and deemed the referendum that led to Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula illegal.

The vote was 100 in favor, 11 opposed and 58 abstentions.

Russia shrugged off the torrent of criticism, announcing it would set up its own payment system to rival Visa and MasterCard after the two companies pulled their services from some Russian banks in the wake of international sanctions.

IMF to help Ukraine with up to $18 billion bailout 03/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:17pm]

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