Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy Page: 2 of 26
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Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy
Ukraine entered 2016 two years after the February 2014 collapse of the Kremlin-supported
government of President Viktor Yanukovych. The collapse was brought about by bitter protests
that had erupted in Kyiv's Maidan Square in late 2013 over a decision by the government to reject
closer relations with the European Union. What followed the turmoil of early 2014 was the
emergence of a pro-Western, pro-reform government and an energized public generally anxious
to lessen Moscow's influence, committed to addressing the need for serious reform and
determined to draw closer to Europe and the United States.
Despite the changes in government leadership, the political and economic reorientation, and the
emergence of a vibrant civil society dedicated to the implementation of change, Ukraine remains
far from achieving the political and economic stability and internal security sought by the
supporters of the Maidan. In fact, 2016 has already proven to be a very unsettling time for the
current government as frustrations have mounted over the slow pace of political reform and
economic progress. These shortcomings resulted in the resignation of a popular, reform-minded
economy minister and a deputy prosecutor. This was followed by a call by some in the opposition
to replace the current pro-reform prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and a decision by President
Petro Poroshenko to ask for the resignations of Yatsenyuk and Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
Shokin did resign, and Yatsenyuk barely survived a vote of no confidence in the Ukrainian
parliament on February 16, 2016.
Contributing to Ukraine's problems have been Ukraine's rampant corruption, other shortcomings
in the rule of law, and the reluctance of a small group of old-time oligarchs who refuse to
relinquish power or influence. The confluence of these factors has stifled the implementation of
democratic best practices, hindered strong democratic institution building, and exacerbated long-
standing problems in attracting foreign investment.
In 2014, as the new government in Kyiv, led by President Poroshenko and Prime Minister
Yatsenyuk, sought international financial assistance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
estimated Ukraine could require some $40 billion to address the needs of the country. Since then,
the IMF and Ukraine have agreed on a loan package of close to $22 billion over four years, some
$6.7 billion of which has been disbursed. The European Union (EU) has committed over 11
billion (about $15.5 billion) in aid for Ukraine and is considering further assistance. In January
2016, a new free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine went into effect, potentially
opening new opportunities for Ukraine's economic development.
According to the Department of State, the United States has committed over $550 million in
assistance to Ukraine since the emergence of the new, pro-reform government, in addition to two
$1 billion loan guarantees to help the new government carry out political and economic reforms
and bolster the capabilities of its security sector, including its army. With continued progress on
economic reforms and as conditions warrant, the Obama Administration could ask for a third loan
guarantee of up to $1 billion in 2017. U.S. economic and technical experts advise almost a dozen
Ukrainian ministries and localities. The U.S. has provided some $69 million in humanitarian
support to help displaced Ukrainians through international relief organizations and local
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Ukraine's problems, however, are not solely political and economic. Russia responded to the
change of government in Kyiv by seizing Ukraine's Crimea region and annexing it on March 18,
2014. In April 2014, armed pro-Russian separatists seized parts of the Donbas region of eastern
Ukraine aided by personnel, weaponry, and leadership from Russia. A cease-fire agreement was
signed in Minsk, Belarus, in late 2014 by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany.
Congressional Research Service
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Morelli, Vincent L. Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, report, February 22, 2016; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc824785/m1/2/: accessed September 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.