Ukraine, Russia seal trade deal

2013-12-18 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Ukraine and Russia have signed a major economic trade deal, despite massive protests in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, for European Union integration, with Moscow promising massive financial assistance and cuts in natural gas prices.


While there was shouting in Kyiv, there was applause at the Kremlin.


Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed an agreement that has slashed the cost of natural gas sold to Ukraine by one-third.

Moscow has also pledged to buy billions of dollars' worth of Ukrainian government bonds, as the country faces a major economic crisis.


"We have all this work done to put (the) Ukrainian economy and trade balance back to (a) positive dynamic (and) on the right track. And this underlines our strategic relations (with Russia),” Yanukovych said.


BONDS PACKAGE
Under the agreement, Russia would buy $15 billion of Ukrainian government bonds and the cost of Russian gas supplied to Ukraine would be cut, from more than $400 per 1,000 cubic meters to about $268.


However, Putin denied the massive assistance was tied to conditions.


"I can calm down everyone. We have not discussed Ukraine joining the Russia-led Customs Union," he claimed, prompting laughs from even those watching the ceremony.


YANUKOVYCH WARNED
Opposition leaders had warned Yanukovych not to bother coming back to Ukraine if he “sells out” to Russia.

On the streets of Kyiv, pro-EU demonstrators are still hoping Ukraine will sign the EU Association Agreement.


"He [Yanukovych] might not sign any documents, because he is not so stupid I think. Maybe I am wrong, I don't know," a young protester said.


But, following the latest economic trade deal with Russia, Ukraine's EU integration seems a distant dream.


Listen to the report by Stefan Bos: