UPDATE 1-IMF says will be in Kiev next week to discuss possible loan
WASHINGTON Feb 27 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Thursday said it would send a fact-finding team to Ukraine next week in response to Kiev's request for support after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the IMF and its international partners were discussing how to help Ukraine, which says it needs $35 billion over two years to avoid bankruptcy.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit the Washington-based IMF on Friday to discuss Ukraine, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.
The IMF team being sent to Kiev will have preliminary talks with authorities there, Lagarde said.
"This will enable the IMF to make its usual technical, independent assessment of the economic situation in Ukraine and, at the same time, begin to discuss with the authorities the policy reforms that could form the basis of a Fund-supported program," Lagarde said in a statement.
Rice said it would be premature to specify what conditions Ukraine would be required to follow in order to get an IMF bailout, or how much money the IMF would be prepared to give.
"Broadly, we would expect that the main elements of that Article 4 would remain valid," he told reporters, referring to the IMF's last analysis of Ukraine's economy in October.
In that analysis, the Fund urged Ukraine to raise gas prices for domestic consumers and introduce a flexible exchange rate for the hryvnia currency - both unpopular steps previously rejected by the Kiev government.
The key question is whether Ukraine's new leaders are more likely to agree to difficult economic changes than the former leaders. Rice declined to comment on how Ukraine's political situation may affect the IMF's conditions.
"Obviously that's a question for the Ukrainian authorities I think, more than for me," he said. "Of course the ownership of the program, the commitment to the program, the capacity to implement the program, are all considerations that we take into account."
The IMF's team next week will be led by Nikolay Gueorguiev, the deputy head of the Fund's European Department. The head of that department, Reza Moghadam, will also join at some point, Rice said.