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IMF says it's ready to respond to Ukraine's bid for financial aid, sends team to Kyiv

A woman stands at a memorial for the people killed in clashes with the police at Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Ukraine put its police on high alert after dozens of armed pro-Russia men stormed and seized local government buildings in Ukraine's Crimea region early Thursday and raised a Russian flag over a barricade. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

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A woman stands at a memorial for the people killed in clashes with the police at Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Ukraine put its police on high alert after dozens of armed pro-Russia men stormed and seized local government buildings in Ukraine's Crimea region early Thursday and raised a Russian flag over a barricade. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

BRUSSELS - The International Monetary Fund says it is "ready to respond" to Ukraine's bid for financial assistance.

In the IMF's first official statement on Ukraine since the country's political crisis intensified, chief Christine Lagarde said Thursday that a fact-finding team will be sent to Kyiv in the coming days.

Lagarde says the mission will enable the fund to make an independent assessment of the economic situation and start discussing with the Ukrainian authorities which policy reforms would be required in exchange for an emergency loan program.

She says the fund is also in intense talks with its partners on "how best to help Ukraine at this critical moment in its history."

Ukraine's finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion for this year and next to avoid default.

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