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Russian aid needed as time runs out for Ukraine: French FM

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visits the Airbus factory in Tianjin Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Goh Chai Hin, Pool)

BEIJING: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday urged Russia to continue to offer financial assistance to Ukraine, telling reporters in Beijing "there is no time to lose" for the crisis-hit country.

"What we know is that Ukraine's financial situation is very bad, that's for certain," Fabius said, as the global community discussed support for Ukraine, which has appealed for $35 billion in western aid.

Fears that Ukraine's debt-laden economy is facing default have sparked panic on markets, with bond yields rising sharply and the hryvnia currency losing a tenth of its value in the span of a few weeks.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine's new leadership, casting doubt over financial assistance offered by Moscow, including a $15 billion bailout secured by now-ousted President Viktor Yanukovych late last year.

"In terms of aid for Ukraine, that is yet to be determined," Fabius told reporters at the French Embassy as he rounded off a trip to China.

"There is what Russia has promised, and it is to be hoped that our Russian friends and partners can carry on with their support."

"There is no time to lose, that has been confirmed...the treasury is empty."

Ukraine owes nearly $13 billion in debt payments this year -- money it cannot drum up on financial markets because of prohibitively expensive borrowing costs.

Medvedev said that Russia was unable to accept the new authorities in Kiev as a partner for talks and could not negotiate with rebels "carrying Kalashnikovs".

He said Russia was prepared to honour its obligations to Ukraine if and when legitimate authorities appeared.

The EU is also discussing a wide-ranging political and trade pact, which would bring the Ukraine closer to the West.

 

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