Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia's providing of a financial bailout for Ukraine was done out of "brotherly love," not for any political gain or to tear Ukraine away from a proposed trade deal with the European Union.
Putin made the comment during an annual news conference after weeks of political turmoil in Ukraine sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a trade pact with the EU.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said his country's new bailout deal will allow Ukraine to revitalize its economy and avoid collapse. Meanwhile, pro-European Union demonstrations continued in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.
According to the terms of the bailout, Putin has promised to reduce the price of natural gas exports to Ukraine by a third and lend the nation $15 billion.
Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko greeted the news with skepticism Tuesday, telling supporters that Yanukovych had handed over Ukraine's national interests and independence, along with every Ukrainian's prospects for a better life.
Anti-government protests in Ukraine began a month ago. Analysts consider the current unrest to be Ukraine's biggest political crisis since the Orange Revolution of 2004.
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 said the deal between Kyiv 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 plans to sign an association agreement with the European Union.
A poll by Ukraine's non-governmental Research and Branding group released earlier this month showed 46 percent of Ukrainians favoring the EU trade pact, compared with 36 percent favoring a rival trade bloc of former Soviet republics and satellite countries that is being pushed by Moscow.