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Russia likely to give Ukraine financial aid, official says

Dec. 17, 2013 at 2:12 AM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Russia will likely give Ukraine vital financial aid when President Viktor Yanukovych meets with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Tuesday, officials said.

At the same time, Ukrainian protest leaders demanding Yanukovych step down after he rejected a political and free-trade deal with the European Union called for a major rally in Kiev Tuesday evening to mark Yanukovych's Moscow meeting.

The Putin-Yanukovych meeting, set to start at 3 p.m. Moscow time (6 a.m. EST), may include loans, senior Putin economic aide Andrei Belousov told Russian non-governmental Interfax news agency.

"The situation in Ukraine right now is such that without the provision of some sort of loans from someone or other they simply won't be able to maintain economic stability," Belousov said.

"I don't rule out that a loan will be extended if there is such a request," he said in remarks translated by the New York Times.

Russia's Finance Ministry said both sides were engaging in loan talks. Ukraine's Energy Ministry said it believed Yanukovych and Putin would also strike a deal for low-price natural gas from Russia.

The two countries already have a long-term discount gas deal. Under the deal, Ukraine lets Russia lease naval facilities in Crimea, an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine, until at least 2042 and Russia sells gas at a discount.

The leaders will not discuss the possibility of Ukraine joining Russia's EU-type economic alliance of former Soviet states known as the Customs Union, officials said -- a statement anti-government demonstrators in Kiev said they don't believe.

"Ten issues will be covered at these meetings, of which the second agenda item will be the cooperation of Ukraine with the Customs Union," Freedom Party opposition politician Oleh Tiahnybok told reporters in Kiev Monday.

Tiahnybok predicted many thousands would come out for the "Say No to Customs Union" rally to take place in central Kiev's Independence Square at 6 p.m. (11 a.m. EST).

Demonstrators, who numbered more than 200,000 Sunday, have come out despite a heavy police presence, freezing temperatures and snow.

They say they fear joining the Customs Union and building other ties with Russia because they don't want Russia to increase its leverage over the country.

The Kremlin had great power over Ukraine during the Soviet period.

They also say additional ties with Russia would end the possibility of reviving accords with Europe for the foreseeable future, the Times said.

By contrast, they want to improve ties with the 28-nation EU because they see it as increasing freedom and prosperity.

The uprising began Nov. 21 after Yanukovych halted plans to sign a cooperative framework for political, trade, social, cultural and security links as well as a free-trade deal with the EU.

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