Billionaire financier George Soros has urged the West to step up aid to Ukraine, outlining steps towards a $50 billion (33.22 billion pounds) financing package that he said should be viewed as a bulwark against an increasingly aggressive Russia.
Writing in the New York Review of Books, Soros said Europe and the United States needed to balance sanctions imposed on Russia with large-scale assistance to near-bankrupt Ukraine, which risks defaulting on debt as a result of turmoil caused by pro-Russia separatist fighting.
"Europe needs to wake up and recognise that it is under attack from Russia," the Hungarian-born hedge fund magnate wrote. "Assisting Ukraine should also be considered as a defence expenditure by the European Union countries."
The International Monetary Fund has cobbled together a $17 billion programme for Ukraine but says $15 billion more is needed. Soros called on lenders to promise far more to spur Ukraine into radical reform and to send a signal to Russia.
Finally, Soros noted that Ukraine would free up $4 billion by restructuring its debt via "a voluntary, market-based exchange". The country has just $10 billion in hard currency reserves but almost $8 billion in bonds falling due over the next three years.
"The additional sources of financing I have cited should be sufficient to produce a new financial package of $50 billion or more," he said, adding that sanctions on Russia needed to be extended after they expire from April.