2:36pm

Tue December 17, 2013
The Two-Way

Russia Throws Ukraine Financial Lifeline Amid Popular Unrest

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 4:05 am

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports that Russia has agreed to a massive bailout package for Ukraine, a deal that could keep the country from bankruptcy next year – but the deal has outraged the political opposition which has protested closer ties with Moscow.

As we reported on Monday, the deal is aimed at keeping the cash-strapped former Soviet republic in the Russian sphere of influence.

Flintoff reports:

"President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will temporarily cut the price of natural gas to Ukraine by one third and lend the struggling country about $15 billion dollars."

"The announcement came after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych came to the Kremlin to ask for concessions."

"Putin insisted that the two men did not discuss the issue of whether Ukraine will join a Moscow-led customs union."

"Even so, protestors in the main square of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, accused Yanukovych of selling his country to the highest bidder."

The protesters have been angered by Yanukovych's decision to back away from a pact that would have brought his country closer to the European Union.

The Associated Press says:

"Washington said the Kremlin agreements would not address concerns of the demonstrators in Kiev, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed what she described as a 'bidding competition' over Ukraine."

"Putin's move came as Ukraine said it desperately needs to get at least $10 billion in the coming months to avoid bankruptcy. The Fitch ratings agency has given Ukraine's bonds a B-minus rating, which puts them in 'junk bond' territory."

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