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Ukraine to get help from new EU support group

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union plans to set up a special support group to help Ukraine stabilize its precarious economy and political situation, an EU diplomat said on Tuesday.

Concern is growing that Moscow could be preparing for further military action in Ukraine and on Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russian agents and special forces of stirring separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine.

The support group, whose creation is expected to be announced on Wednesday, would bring together "several dozen people" to work out priorities for Ukraine, an EU diplomat said, asking not to be named.

"The support group will identify and coordinate with the Ukrainian authorities the necessary help and assistance they need to stabilize the economy and political situation, help with reforms etc.," the diplomat said.

The group, whose work could be extended to Georgia and Moldova, which are also seeking a closer relationship with the EU, will draw on the expertise of various EU member states and work with the international financial institutions.

Last month the International Monetary Fund announced a $14-$18 billion loan for Kiev in return for tough economic reforms that will unlock further aid from the European Union, the United States and other lenders over two years.

EU policy-makers have made tackling the Ukraine crisis top priority after Moscow last month annexed the Crimea peninsula.

Russia has dismissed Western accusations that Moscow is destabilizing Ukraine.

The Ukraine crisis began after former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to spurn an EU offer of closer trade and political relations started months of street protests that eventually led to his downfall.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Adrian Croft)

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