EU shells out €600m in Ukraine aid

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman today. [European Commission]

The EU will give Ukraine €600 million to bolster government finances, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today (10 February), as Kiev faces an upsurge in fighting with pro-Russian rebels.

Juncker, speaking after talks with Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, said the country had pressed ahead with reforms despite difficult conditions and the EU should now make good its aid pledges.

“This will be done in the next coming weeks because I think that after having watched the reform effort of Ukraine, Ukrainians have the right to see something in return,” he told reporters.

“We are supporting Ukraine, not only in its conflict with Russia, but more generally… We have a strategic partnership with Ukraine and our future relations will develop along these lines.”

Military situation in eastern Ukraine worsens

The foreign ministry of Ukraine expressed deep concern Monday night (30 January) over the “intensification of the Russian-terrorist forces in Donbas”. Other reports, however, speak of a “creeping offensive” of Ukrainian forces in an attempt to create “new facts on the ground”.

Groysman said it was very important to send a strong signal to citizens that the tie-up with the EU was “a positive result and would improve their lives.”

Juncker added that he expected visa liberalisation for citizens of Ukraine, long sought by Kiev, would be in place by the middle of the year.

In recent weeks, the government has faced a very sharp spike in fighting with rebels in the east amid speculation Russia was stoking the conflict to test how new US President Donald Trump would react after he said he favoured improving links with Moscow.

Pro-European Union protests in early 2014 ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and his successor Petro Poroshenko turned his back on Moscow in favour of a future with the EU.

Belarus in energy and border fracas with big brother Russia

Russia and Belarus remained allies after the collapse of the Soviet Union but their relationship has soured lately. The main point of contention appears to be energy supply. Euractiv Germany reports.

The two sides signed an association agreement, and a free trade deal, to bolster Ukraine’s struggling economy, with Brussels offering €3.4 billion in loans to help Kiev balance the public finances.

The EU has so far handed over €2.2 billion, with disbursements tied to progress on political and economic reforms meant to end corruption and put Ukraine, a Soviet-era satellite, on a par with European norms.

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