Zee Media Bureau
Moscow: After averting a major economic crisis in Ukraine by granting a $15bn bailout, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday defended the assistance as a mere goodwill act that was done for the sake of a “brotherly” nation and ruled out any connection with European Union talks.
Speaking at an annual press conference, Putin said that as Russia considered Ukraine as a fraternal nation, Moscow must do what a family member must do for another.
"Now we see that Ukraine is in difficult straits ... if we really say that they are a brotherly nation and people then we must act like close relatives and help this nation,” said Putin.
As huge protests in Ukraine continued to up the ante against Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych demanding the signing of an EU deal, Russia agreed to buy government bonds worth $15 billion and also slashed the cost of Russian gas supplied to Ukraine from more than $400 per 1,000 cubic metres to $268.5.
The ‘generous’ gesture by Russia has been branded as an act aimed towards keeping Ukraine away from the EU grip and retaining it under Moscow’s influence.
However, Putin rubbished out the claims saying the move had nothing to do with the EU talks or he protests.
"In no way is this connected with the Maidan (protests in central Kiev) or the European talks with Ukraine," Putin said.
Voicing suspicion over the deal, Ukrainian opposition leaders alleged that the President Yanukovych had mortgaged Ukrainian firms in return for the deal.
One of the opposition leader and boxing champion Vitali Klitschko said he suspected Mr Yanukovych had handed over Ukrainian firms and strategic assets in return for Russian help, reported the BBC.
Another opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok said that Mr Yanukovych had "pawned whole sectors" of Ukrainian economy to Russia.