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China says supports international financial aid for Ukraine

Civilians entering Ukraine (L) have their passports checked as Ukrainian border guards (R) stand at a Russian-Ukrainian border crossing near
Civilians entering Ukraine (L) have their passports checked as Ukrainian border guards (R) stand at a Russian-Ukrainian border crossing near

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that international financial bodies ought to be offering aid to Ukraine to ensure its economic stability, though it stopped short of saying whether Beijing would participate in such efforts.

Ukrainian Finance Minister Oleksander Shlapak says he is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a loan package of $15 billion to $20 billion because the economy had been severely weakened by months of political turmoil and mismanagement.

U.S. President Barack Obama has also urged the IMF to reach agreement swiftly on a financial support package for Kiev, which would unlock additional aid from the European Union and Washington.

Asked about aid for Ukraine, China, whose President Xi Jinping discussed Ukraine with Obama on Monday, said that the government "upholds the maintaining of Ukraine's financial stability".

"International financial organizations ought to get down to dealing with this, to ensure Ukraine's financial and economic stability," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

He did not elaborate, instead repeating that China had proposed setting up an international coordination mechanism to look for a political solution to the crisis over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

China, he said, hoped all parties in the international community would take no actions to worsen the situation.

China has adopted a cautious, low-key response to the crisis, not wanting either to alienate key ally Russia or comment directly on the referendum in which Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, lest it set a precedent for its own restive regions, like Tibet.

But China has also said it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine and that it respects Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, since ousted after three months of sometimes violent protests, visited China in December in the hope of winning much-needed financial aid, but China did not say it would provide any loans.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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