Petrol station damaged by shelling outside Debaltseve
Kiev - AFP
Ukraine's parliament began Monday debating a package of reforms the International Monetary Fund requires to deliver a multi-billion-dollar aid package needed to pull the country from the brink of bankruptcy.
Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, has gone into free-fall over the past year, losing almost two-thirds of its value as the east collapsed into a bloody conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
The country's foreign currency reserves are running desperately low.
The IMF has pledged to throw Ukraine a $17.5 billion (15.5 billion euro) lifeline, but has conditioned the aid to the adoption of painful reforms.
The package of measures before parliament include steep cuts in public spending, a hike in gas prices and efforts to combat endemic corruption.
"We are now in a situation where we have no easy solutions," Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned lawmakers.
Adopting the reforms would not only permit Ukraine to secure IMF funding, but also allow it repay its debts and attract more foreign investment, he said.
Yuriy Lutsenko, parliamentary leader of President Petro Poroshenko's bloc, called it a make-or-break moment for the country.
"The fact is that without the package... Ukraine will face financial collapse within two weeks," he declared.
The IMF bailout is the cornerstone of an international aid package that is expected to come to around $40 billion over four years.
The fund already granted Ukraine an emergency $17 billion loan in April.