By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said she and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday agreed to explore ways to expand the IMF’s support for the war-torn country and build toward a full-fledged financing program.
Georgieva told an event hosted by the Center for Global Development that she and Zelenskiy agreed that an IMF mission would meet with Ukrainian authorities in the next weeks to work on a “pathway of engagement that is deeper.”
She said the IMF was also working to ensure board approval for a proposal aimed at expanding emergency aid for Ukraine and other countries facing urgent balance of payments problems due to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The new “food shock window” in the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument would provide Kyiv with about the same amount of funding as the $1.4 billion it got in March, shortly after the Russian invasion, Georgieva said.
“We discussed first how we can immediately be of help to Ukraine,” she said, adding that Ukraine’s needs had grown since the first disbursement of emergency financing.
“Secondly we discussed a longer-term engagement with Ukraine and how we can build towards a program that can more comprehensively benefit Ukraine,” she said. “That is a build up towards a full-fledged fund program.”
Georgieva said Zelenskiy also expressed interest in how the fund could work with other institutions to provide policy support for Ukraine, and start working on how it will transition to a sound, sustainable future.
Alfred Kammer, director of the IMF’s European department and his deputy, Julie Kozack, will meet with Ukrainian officials in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo this week, an IMF spokesperson said.
“Excellent call with President @ZelenskyyUa,” Georgieva wrote on Twitter, before the event. She said they discussed how the global lender could “continue to back Ukraine and agreed to explore ways to ramp up our financial and policy engagement to (Ukraine) using all tools available to us.”
In a separate posting on Twitter, Zelenskiy said he spoke with Georgieva and thanked her for “the allocation of $1.4 billion of additional support. Discussed future cooperation to increase Ukraine’s financial stability.”
Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials have grown frustrated in recent months by what they see as slow progress toward a larger financing package.
Ukraine’s central bank governor, Kyrylo Shevchenko, told Reuters in July that Kyiv was seeking $15-20 billion from the IMF over two or three years – an amount that would put Ukraine well over the fund’s “exceptional access limit” for lending.
Speaking through an interpreter, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a conference on Sunday that the IMF had been “very passive” in responding to Ukraine’s request to date.
He said the fund loaned Ukraine $17 billion after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in 2014, but was dragging its heels this time around.
“Now we have a certain procrastination, but we have to speed up our cooperation and the response of the IMF, which was created to support countries in dire straits like we find ourselves in,” he said.
He said Ukraine was working closely with the United States, Germany and other partners, but the IMF was an important “uniting factor.”
“It’s very important to have the IMF on board with their leadership and partnership,” he added.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Alexandra Hudson and David Gregorio)