BRUSSELS, March 16 The European Commission
agreed on Thursday to send Ukraine 600 million euros ($643.20
million) to help its finances, ending months of delays over EU
conditions linked to the loan.
With Ukraine facing its third year of a separatist war, the
EU executive softened demands that Kiev first lift a ban on
Ukrainian wood exports, saying the money could now be sent
because the government had submitted a bill to change policy.
"The Commission expects that the law on the timber export
ban presented to the Ukrainian Parliament will be adopted
without delay," it said in a statement
The money, which takes the total of EU loans sent to Ukraine
to 2.8 billion euros since 2014, will be released to Kiev later
this month or in early April once the executive has raised the
funds on capital markets, the Commission said.
In February, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
promised Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to unblock
the 600-million euro tranche, in a gesture to the former Soviet
state that the European Union seeks to bring closer to the West.
A final 600-million euro disbursement is still available
under the aid package, which expires in January 2018.
The West has been seeking to modernise one of the world's
most corrupt countries since the 2013-14 pro-European uprising
which ousted Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovich.
The EU is working with Kiev to implement a broad trade deal
that has been at the heart of tensions with Russia. Moscow
wanted Ukraine to instead join its free-trade bloc, the Eurasian
Economic Union, which includes the former Soviet republics of
Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Kiev and the West accuse Russia of trying to destabilise
Ukraine by financing separatists in a war in the country's east
that has killed some 10,000 people since April 2014.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Gareth Jones)