When Arseny Yat­senyuk took the reins in Kiev after months of unrest top­pled the pro-​​Russian gov­ern­ment of Viktor Yanukovich, the former Min­ister of the Economy knew a polit­i­cally costly over­haul of his country’s budget was needed to save the economy from immi­nent col­lapse and a pro­jected ten per­cent con­trac­tion by year’s end.

The trea­sury is empty. We will do every­thing not to default,” Yat­senyuk said. “I’m going to be the most unpop­ular prime min­ister in the his­tory of my country … but it is the only solu­tion.” A month later, Yat­senyuk agreed to an $18 bil­lion loan from the Inter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund that man­dated far-​​reaching aus­terity mea­sures he called “very unpop­ular, very com­plex, hard reforms.”

The aus­terity mea­sures, which include an end to costly gas sub­si­dies and a freeze on the min­imum wage, have yet to be imple­mented. But many ana­lysts pre­dict the stark eco­nomic prag­ma­tism of the new, pro-​​European leaders in Kiev and their Western backers in the IMF could fur­ther enflame Ukraine’s volatile polit­ical land­scape, which has fea­tured rising calls for sep­a­ratism in the Russian-​​speaking east matched by a Kremlin push for the fed­er­al­iza­tion of Ukraine.

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