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By Anna Yukhananov
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund has not discussed a new aid program with Ukraine's authorities in the last two weeks, a spokesman for the fund said on Thursday.
Without international aid, investors fear Ukraine will struggle to repay $7 billion of hard currency debt falling due next year, while it is also dealing with a balance of payments deficit and unpaid gas bills from Russia.
The former Soviet republic is currently struggling with a financial crisis and huge street protests after President Viktor Yanukovich decided to scrap a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
The IMF has consistently said it is ready to help Ukraine, but cannot give it money unless the government signs up for tough reforms, including greater exchange rate flexibility and a gradual hike in energy prices. The IMF on Thursday did not suggest it was relaxing any of these conditions.
The IMF also said its discussions with Ukraine are not tied to any bilateral talks Kiev may be having with the European Union or others.
"As always, the IMF's decisions are based on our independent analysis and assessment," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters. "We have been consistent in our diagnosis and advice on the measures needed to correct the longstanding imbalances and to address the major vulnerabilities in the Ukrainian economy."
European officials on Wednesday said they were in discussion with the IMF, the World Bank and other major financial bodies on ways of helping Ukraine should it decide to sign a free-trade agreement with the EU.
(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by James Dalgleish and Andrew Hay)