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Russia ready to help Ukraine's economy: Kerry

Russia is ready to help Ukraine as it seeks to stave off economic collapse, US Secretary of State John Kerry said after talking with his Russian counterpart.

WASHINGTON: Russia is ready to help Ukraine as it seeks to stave off economic collapse, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday after talking with his Russian counterpart.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated during a Friday phone call "that they are prepared to be engaged and be involved in helping to deal with the economic transition that needs to take place at this point," Kerry told reporters.

The top US diplomat said he had stressed during the call with Lavrov the urgent need to focus on Ukraine's economy as the IMF prepares to send a fact-finding mission to the cash-strapped country.

On Monday, Ukraine's new leaders, who took over after the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych, said the country needs US$35 billion to support the government's needs and avoid defaulting on its debt.

But IMF chief Catherine Lagarde on Friday urged calm, saying: "We do not see anything that is critical, that is worthy of panic at the moment."

Kerry told reporters at the State Department that "the primary focus of everybody should be on the creation of a stable transitioning process that allows Ukrainians to be able to make their choice in a free and fair election, while we all work to help stabilize the economy."

"That's in Russia's interests, in the United States' interests, in the world's interests," Kerry added, after talks with his Colombian counterpart Maria Holguin.

"We do not want to get caught up in the historical, or the more current tensions over associations' agreements or NATO or other kinds of things," he urged, in a side swipe at Moscow which has sought to stop the former Soviet satellite moving closer to the European Union.

"There's a place for that down the road, if Ukrainians want to have that debate. But we do not believe that should be part of what is happening now."

The top US diplomat revealed earlier this week that Washington is preparing to offer Kiev a US$1 billion loan guarantee, and an as yet undecided amount of direct aid. The EU is also mulling a similar loan guarantee.

Ukraine owes US$13 billion in state debt payments this year - a massive sum in a country where state reserves have shrunk to less than US$18 billion.

And Kiev has suffered from Russia's decision to freeze a US$15 billion dollar bailout package after a first US$3 billion tranche was used up.

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