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EU hints at more aid for Ukraine

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(BRUSSELS) - The EU left the door open Tuesday to provide more aid for Ukraine's struggling economy, with officials saying Kiev's finances were in a "very critical" situation.

On December 3 the European Union released the second portion of a 1.6 billion ($2 billion) aid programme launched in March to rescue an almost bankrupt Kiev.

"We are studying the possibility of a third macro-financial aid programme," the European Union's economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici told a news conference in Brussels.

He said it would "of course be linked to the Ukrainian authorities' ability to implement reforms after a period of political instability and our own ability to find the resources."

The EU and international lenders have backed Kiev since the overthrow in February of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, after he ditched a pact for closer relations with Brussels and sparked months of separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"We are very aware of the very large financial need that the country is facing," Finance Minister Carlo Padoan of Italy, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, told reporters in Brussels.

"The main source of support for Ukraine should come from international organisations like the IMF but also European resources can be mobilised if needed," he said.

Brussels has repeatedly postponed plans for a donors' meeting to help Ukraine's crippled economy and instead urged Kiev to reduce its reliance on borrowing and handouts.

The loans are part of a much vaster 11 billion euro programme decided at a summit in March that also includes EU development funds and lending from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

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