(Reuters) - Ukraine's new prime minister said on Thursday loans worth $37 billion had gone missing from state coffers during ousted President Viktor Yanukovich's rule, and warned that unpopular measures were needed to salvage the economy.
With the hryvnia currency in freefall and concerns about the low level of foreign currency reserves growing, Arseny Yatseniuk said the country urgently needed loans from the International Monetary Fund, which is visiting Kiev next week.
The scale of alleged theft implied by Yatseniuk in a speech to parliament was jaw-dropping, even for a population now used to tales of Yanukovich's extravagance and lavish lifestyle, including his luxury residence outside Kiev.
The average salary in Ukraine is around $500 a month.
In addition to the missing $37 billion, Yatseniuk said as much as $70 billion had been sent out of the country during Yanukovich's three-year rule, although he did not make clear how much of this capital flight was illegal.
"I want to report to you - the state treasury has been robbed and is empty," he said before the national assembly voted him in as head of a national unity government.
"Thirty-seven billion dollars of credit received have disappeared in an unknown direction ... (and) the sum of 70 billion dollars was paid out of Ukraine's financial system into off-shore accounts."
At today's rate, $70 billion is equal to about half Ukraine's gross domestic product in 2013.
Only 4.3 billion hryvnia - $430 million - was left in government accounts, Yatseniuk said, although the central bank's foreign currency reserves stand at $15 billion.
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