By Lesley Wroughton
KIEV, March 4 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
arrived in Kiev on Tuesday and announced an economic package and
technical assistance for Ukraine in a show of support for its
new government amid escalating tensions with Russia.
Kerry's visit comes as Washington and its Western allies
step up pressure on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine's
Crimea region or face economic sanctions and diplomatic
A senior U.S. administration official, who briefed reporters
en route to Kiev, said the Obama administration would work with
Congress to approve $1 billion in loan guarantees to help lessen
the impact on Ukrainians of proposed energy subsidy cuts.
The United States will also send technical experts to
Ukraine to advise its central bank and finance ministry on how
to deal with the country's economic challenges and help combat
corruption, the official said.
In addition, the United States will train observers for the
country's May 25 election to bring the electoral process in line
with international standards, the official added.
"We want to very visibly embrace Ukraine," said the official
who briefed reporters en route to Kiev. "Part of that is through
an IMF package, part of it will be through bilateral assistance
but in conjunction with our partners to try to support Ukraine,"
the official told reporters.
A team from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund
arrived in Ukraine last weekend to assess the state of Ukraine's
economy, threatened by bankruptcy following three months of
The United States, which is the IMF's largest member
country, has said it will support an IMF-backed lending program
to Ukraine. Part of the IMF's lending conditions are likely to
include cuts in energy subsidies that are a drain on government
In Washington, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said his
department is ready to dispatch technical advisers to help
support Ukraine as it negotiates with the IMF.
The U.S. official in Kiev said there were no signs yet that
Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to change course and
withdraw Russian troops from Crimea.
"If Russia does not choose to de-escalate, does not choose
that off-ramp, then the message from the administration is we
are ready then to put in place more robust measures," the U.S.
The official said the United States was concerned that
Russia may extend its incursion beyond Crimea.
During his visit, Kerry will visit the Shrine to the Fallen,
one of the memorials that have popped up since sniper attacks on
protesters in Kiev. He will also meet with senior Ukrainian
officials, including the prime minister and acting president, as
well as members of the parliament and religious leaders.
Kerry, who is also traveling to Paris and Rome, could also
meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his
travels, the U.S. official said.