U.S. lawmakers writing aid package for new Ukraine government

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 28, 2014 12:57 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers applauded the formation of an interim government in Ukraine and said on Friday they are writing legislation to authorize financial and technical assistance for the country.

Details of the package were being hammered out, but Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of a Senate subcommittee on European Affairs, said the package would be part of "a broader, coordinated program" with the European Union, International Monetary Fund and other international partners.

"I encourage the new government to implement the necessary economic reforms to stabilize the economy and set Ukraine on a path to prosperity, including rooting out corruption and increasing transparency in government finances," the Connecticut Democrat said in a statement.

"Ukraine's leading industrialists might also consider how they can play a helpful role in stabilizing the economy," Murphy said.

To become law, an assistance package would need to pass the Senate and the House of Representatives, before being sent to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.

Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would be interested in discussing the Ukraine package with the Senate in order to submit a similar measure in the House.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on events in Ukraine and U.S. foreign policy there on March 6.

Lawmakers said they felt Congress needed to support Ukraine's democracy and independence and encourage it and other eastern European countries to strengthen their ties to the west, rather than President Vladimir Putin's Russia.

"We have to send a very strong message to Putin," Engel told Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had warned Russia not to inflame the situation in Ukraine.

The Senate and House have already approved non-binding resolutions supporting democracy in Ukraine. Murphy and Republican Arizona Senator John McCain traveled to Kiev in December and addressed crowds of anti-government protesters.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio)