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Published: Friday February 28, 2014 MYT 4:06:12 AM
Updated: Friday February 28, 2014 MYT 4:06:59 AM

Ukraine needs $4 billion in immediate help - EU diplomat

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ukraine's new rulers have told the European Union that the country's battered economy needs an immediate infusion of some $4 billion, a EU diplomat said on Thursday.

Since President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted over the weekend, Ukraine's finance ministry has said it needed $35 billion to survive this year and next and asked for the first payments to be made in the next one to two weeks, possibly alongside a donors' conference.

Ukraine's new finance minister, Oleksander Shlapak, said he hoped the IMF would work on an aid package of at least $15 billion.

The EU diplomat spoke as Ukraine was hit by a fresh crisis as armed men seized the local parliament in the Crimea region and raised the Russian flag, alarming Kiev's new rulers.

"Ukrainian interlocutors said that Ukraine needs an immediate $4 billion," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The EU is also preparing a short- and long-term financial package to help stabilise Ukraine, which is on the brink of bankruptcy largely because of huge debt repayments, currency turmoil and high energy costs.

EU officials will also travel to Kiev next week to assess the country's needs and prepare possible grant and loan programmes.

Diplomats have said bridge loans from various international lenders, including individual EU governments, were an option in the short-term.

The EU could also organise a donors' conference in the coming months. Diplomats have said countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan have expressed interest in potentially participating in broader international support for Ukraine.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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