Yellen says new $500 million is 'only the beginning' of Ukraine aid

WASHINGTON — The United States is providing an additional $500 million in financial assistance to Ukraine to help the beleaguered country sustain salaries, pensions and other government programs while it fends off Russia's invasion.

“We plan to deploy this direct aid to Ukraine as soon as possible, to be used on the most urgent needs," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday. "We know this is only the beginning of what Ukraine will need to rebuild.”

The new funding is on top of $500 million in economic aid that President Joe Biden unveiled in March.

Yellen met before the announcement with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, along with Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo and Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko. The announcement comes against the backdrop of International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings dominated by conversations over how to manage the spillover from Russia's war in Ukraine.

The Treasury Department imposed a new wave of sanctions against Russia on Wednesday. Included in the sanctions packages are penalties imposed on more than 40 people and entities accused of evading sanctions. The sanctions include the first set of penalties against a cryptocurrency mining firm in relation to the war.

Yellen said Thursday that the U.S. was continuing to “tighten the vise of our economic pressure campaign.”

She responded cautiously to a question about whether European allies needed to ban Russian oil and gas imports, a recurring issue during the war in Ukraine.

“Europe clearly needs to reduce its dependence on Russia in respect to energy. But we need to be careful,” Yellen said, pointing out there would be a resulting rise in oil prices worldwide. Under that situation, she said, Russia could still benefit financially even if its sales in Europe declined.

On Wednesday, Yellen and Ukraine’s finance minister walked out of a Group of 20 meeting as Russia’s representative started talking.

Several other finance ministers and central bank governors also left the room, according an official familiar with the meetings, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the event was not public.

Some ministers and central bank governors who attended the meeting virtually turned their cameras off when Russian President Vladimir Putin’s representative spoke, the person said.

“It simply cannot be business as usual for Russia in terms of its participation in our global forums,” Yellen said.

Yellen was noncommittal, though, on proposals to remove Russia from the G-20, which is made up of representatives of industrial and emerging-market nations.

“We will look for a way to make our disapproval known while still recognizing we have a lot of work to accomplish,” she said.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group spring meetings occur every year, with finance leaders convening to tackle the world’s most pressing issues.

Yellen said she was talking to her counterparts about ensuring adequate food supplies around the globe and preparing for the possibility of new pandemics in the future.

“COVID-19," she said, “will not be our last global health emergency.”

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