U.S. Promises $1 Billion for Ukraine

Aid package comes as Secretary of State John Kerry lands in Kiev

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The United States announced Tuesday a massive aid package for Ukraine, including loan guarantees and technical assistance as the country seeks to stabilize its fragile economy amid a tense standoff with Russia.

In remarks after introducing his 2015 budget, President Obama said the $1 billion aid package would “stabilize the economy in Ukraine, help to make sure that fair and free elections take place very soon and as a consequence help de-escalate the crisis.” He called on Congress to work with his Administration to finance the package.

The announcement came as Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev, where he visited a memorial to slain protestors in the capital city’s Maidan Square, and met with the new Ukrainian leadership at the Verkhovna Rada, the country’s parliament.

Kerry reaffirmed U.S. support for the interim government in Ukraine, and called the Rada “the most representative institution” in the country following the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovcych. “We will stand with the people of Ukraine,” he said.

With Russian troops occupying a vast swath of Ukraine’s eastern Crimea region in the wake of the popular uprising that toppled pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovich, the U.S. and other western powers are lining up to support the new government in Kiev. A senior Obama Administration official told reporters on Kerry’s plane Tuesday that “there’s a political crisis going on but there’s also a very dire financial situation.”

In addition to loan guarantees designed to compensate for lost Russian energy subsidies, the U.S. is “moving quickly to deploy a range of other financing and technical expertise, utilizing a whole-of-government approach to support Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement detailing the $1-billion aid package.

“For example, the United States Treasury is ready to dispatch highly experienced technical advisors to help the Ukrainian financial authorities manage immediate market pressures and support Ukraine as it negotiates with the [International Montetary Fund],” Lew said.

Officials believe tensions in Ukraine are likely to remain high in the near term, as there has been no sign Moscow intends to back down in the face of international pressure. “We still have a very real concern that the Russians may have other plans in the Ukraine,” a senior Obama Administration official told reporters. “They may be planning other moves on Ukraine.”

-with reporting from Michael Crowley in Kiev