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.
Portraits of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov are seen at a barricade during a rally in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
A woman passes by Interior Ministry personnel as they block pro-EU demonstrators near the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
Ukrainian pro-EU demonstrators warm themselves by a fire during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
A pile of garbage bags left by pro-European integration protesters lies in front of riot police officers in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
A Pro-European Union activist guards an entrance to the tent camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 19, 2013.
A man reads a newspaper with a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the front page during a pro-European Union rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 19, 2013.
Pro-European Union activists warm themselves sitting in their shelter inside a barricade during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Dec. 18, 2013.
Pro-European Union activists pass through a police line as they march against the government in Kyiv, Dec. 17, 2013.
A pro-European Union activist stands while warming himself near a bonfire at a heavily fortified tent camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 17, 2013.
A man stacks wooden bars showing names of Ukrainian cities and settlements that are hometowns of demonstrators, during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 16, 2013.
Pro-European integration protesters eat free meals near a barricade during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 16, 2013.
Pro-European Union activists rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Dec. 15, 2013.