The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine along with new sanctions against Russia while NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia even as Ukraine's interim leader reportedly said on Wednesday that his country is open to resuming relations with Russia.
The loan guarantee, including up to $100 million in security assistance for the new Ukrainian government, which was approved by the House in a clear majority, now needs to be signed by President Barack Obama. The bill also authorizes $50 million to support fair elections, fight corruption and enhance civil society in Ukraine. The U.S. government will also intensify economic sanctions against top Russian officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associates, the New York Times reported.
“Along with our European partners, the U.S. must demonstrate long-term resolve to deter any further Russian intervention in Ukraine and the region, including imposing additional economic sanctions that will exact real costs for Putin’s actions in Crimea,” Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who coauthored the bill, said in a statement.
NATO, which had said that there was no proof that Russia was pulling out its troops from Ukraine, said Tuesday that it has suspended all practical, civilian and military cooperation with Russia, making this the organization's first intervention since Crimea’s annexation by Russia. Nearly 40,000 Russian troops are stationed near Ukraine’s eastern border, BBC reported, citing NATO sources.
“Russia has violated international law and has acted in contradiction with the principles and commitments in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council Basic Document, the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and the Rome Declaration. It has gravely breached the trust upon which our cooperation must be based. We have decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia,” NATO’s foreign ministers said, in a statement.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk reportedly said Ukraine would like to resume relations with Russia, a local Russian news organization said.
"We would like to hold negotiations on Ukrainian-Russian relations and we think that our foreign ministers should meet as soon as possible," Yatsenyuk reportedly said according to The Voice of Russia.
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign ministry expressed concern about the ongoing violence in Ukraine and asked the country's government to take decisive decision by disarming radical groups in the country, Ria Novosti, a Russian news organization reported.
"We call on the Ukrainian authorities not to limit the fight against radical powers in Ukraine with rhetoric, but to take decisive measures in disarming the extremists," the ministry reportedly said in a statement.
Tensions in the region have escalated since Russia's occupation of Crimea, which was earlier a part of Ukraine, under the pretext of protecting the interests of the peninsula's Russian-speaking majority population. Russia's move, which the U.S. and EU have called illegal, followed a months-long protest against Ukraine's former pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovych, for his decision to sign a deal with Russia after spurning a trade pact with the EU. The protests culminated in the ouster of Yanukovych, who fled the country and is currently believed to be in Russia.