The European Union has formally approved an assistance package for cash-strapped Ukraine and a plan to provide temporary tariff preferences for Ukrainian goods, as Washington announced the signing of a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on April 14 also added four individuals to a list of 18 people subject to asset freezes for their involvement in misappropriating Ukrainian state funds.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced the loan-guarantee signing on April 14 after meeting Ukrainian Finance Minister Oleksandr Shlapak in Washington, and said it demonstrated the United States' commitment to Ukraine.
A statement said the loan guarantee will "complement" the Ukrainian government's International Monetary Fund (IMF) reform program.
The IMF has pledged to loan between $14 billion and $18 billion to Ukraine. The loan depends on structural reforms that Ukraine has pledged to undertake.
The U.S. statement said Washington's loan guarantee will reinforce the Ukrainian government's efforts to provide critical services as it implements reforms, while protecting the most vulnerable households from the impact of the necessary economic adjustment.
The EU loan of nearly 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) is aimed at helping Ukraine cover its balance-of-payments needs and comes in addition to 610 million euros of aid that has been approved but not yet disbursed.
The cuts in trade tariffs for Ukrainian imports, which are expected to enter into force in two weeks' time, will apply to November at the latest.
In a statement, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said the trade measure showed that the EU is "willing and capable to take immediate steps" toward improving the situation of its eastern neighbors.
The trade preferences could save the country almost 500 million euros a year. Ukraine doesn't need to reciprocate by removing its own customs duties on imports from the EU.
Ukrainian authorities must, however, embark on economic and structural reforms in return.
As he arrived at the Luxembourg meeting, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague called for "further sanctions" against Russia in response to the escalating crisis in eastern Ukraine.
"There can't really be any real doubt that this is something that has been planned and brought about by Russia," Hague said.
The EU has already hit Russian officials with travel bans and asset freezes and has threatened further economic sanctions.
Other EU foreign ministers expressed caution, with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans saying it was "too early" to discuss fresh sanctions but warned that the EU had to be “well prepared."
Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn said sanctions "are not going to solve the problem."
He said everything must be done to ensure the success of EU-U.S.-mediated talks between Russia and Ukraine later this week in Geneva.
Sweden's Carl Bildt said the talks in Geneva on April 17 could serve as a deadline for any further EU action.
He said the talks are "an opportunity for [Russia] to start to de-escalate. If they continue to escalate I think we should escalate."
The EU released a statement at the end of the meeting in Luxembourg that condemned "actions undertaken by armed individuals in cities of eastern Ukraine" and called for an end to "attempts at destabilizing Ukraine."
The statement also reiterated EU support for Ukraine's "sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity" and demanded Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine's border.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa