KIEV -   The International Monetary Fund said Thursday it will discuss on April 3 whether to approve the next $1 billion loan payment for cash-strapped Ukraine after earlier postponing the decision. "Consideration ... is being scheduled for April 3, 2017," Jerome Vacher, the IMF's representative in Ukraine, said in a statement. "Completion of the (board's) review will enable the disbursement of about US $1 billion," Vacher added.

Ukrainian finance minister Oleksandr Danylyuk confirmed the date on Facebook, saying: "the work has been completed through joint efforts. The issue of Ukraine will be considered by the IMF board on April 3."

Cash-starved Ukraine is desperately waiting for the next instalment of a $17.5 billion rescue programme that has been held up repeatedly since it was agreed in 2015 over delays by Kiev to carry out reforms. Ukraine has thus far seen only $7.3 billion of that money.

The IMF last week delayed the decision on the next loan instalment, which had been scheduled for March 20, saying this was to assess the "implications of recent developments for the programme", without giving details. This came after Kiev's pro-Western leadership this month imposed a trade blockade on Russian-backed rebel-held eastern regions. The IMF in early March had preliminarily agreed on the next stage of the loan programme but this still requires the board's approval. The head of Ukraine's Independent Association of Banks in Ukraine head Roman Shpek said this month that nearly all the money would go into refinancing the former Soviet republic's outstanding debt to the IMF.