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Ukraine PM: Russia Deal Will Permit Economic Growth

  • VOA News

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov gestures while speaking during a cabinet meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov gestures while speaking during a cabinet meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov says his country's new bailout deal with Russia will allow Ukraine to revitalize its economy and avoid collapse, but pro-European Union demonstrations continue in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities.

Azarov made the statement Wednesday, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych held talks in Moscow.

Putin has promised to reduce the price of natural gas exports to Ukraine by a third and lend it $15 billion.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko greeted news with skepticism Tuesday, telling supporters that Mr. Yanukovych had handed over Ukraine's national interests, independence and every Ukrainian's prospects for a better life.

Anti-government protests in Ukraine began a month ago when Yanukovych refused to sign an EU trade deal in favor of closer ties with Russia. This is Ukraine's biggest political crisis in a decade.

Klitschko said the Ukrainian people have the right to know what Yanukovych promised the Kremlin in return for the financial assistance, and called for early elections, saying he was personally challenging the Ukrainian president. Klitschko, a heavyweight boxing champion, has announced he is leaving the sport to run for president in 2015.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney has said the deal between Kiev and Moscow for Russian financial aid will not address the concerns of the tens of thousands of Ukrainians protesting Yanukovych's decision to abandon the agreement with the EU.

The Ukrainian government, which has sought up to $20 billion in foreign assistance to prop up its struggling economy, has assured the demonstrators that eventually it planned to sign an association agreement with the European Union.

A poll by Ukraine's non-governmental Research and Branding group released earlier this month shows 46 percent of Ukrainians favoring the EU trade pact. Thirty-six percent were shown favoring a rival trade bloc of former Soviet republics and satellite countries that is being pushed by Moscow.
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