Ukraine leader seeks cash from Putin
Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovych left behind furious anti-government rallies yesterday to negotiate a multi-billion lifeline with Russia’s Vladimir Putin that protesters fear will ruin their EU integration dreams.
The ex-Soviet nation of 46 million has been at the heart of a furious diplomatic tug of war since Yanukovych’s shock decision last month to ditch a landmark EU partnership agreement and seek closer ties with its traditional master Russia.
Yesterday’s high-stakes meeting at the Kremlin comes two days after frustrated EU officials suspended months of negotiations they had hoped would pull Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit for the first time.
“Ministers confirmed again today the European Union’s readiness to sign the (agreement) as soon as Ukraine is ready and the relevant conditions are met,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday after a ministerial meeting in Brussels.
But Yanukovych will instead be hoping to win an urgently needed cash advance from Russia — estimated by local media at anywhere between $5 and $12 billion — that his critics view as Putin’s reward for Kiev’s U-turn on the EU pact.
“A Russian loan can help Yanukovych keep power.And the Kremlin is ready to help him because this meets Putin’s strategic interests,” said Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.
Yanukovych’s reversal sparked the largest anti-government rallies since the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution that first nudged Ukraine on a westward path.