Putin says Russia had to help 'brotherly' Ukraine
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia had to offer Ukraine a multi-billion dollar bailout package because the neighbouring "brotherly country" was going through difficult economic and political times.
"Why did we take this decision? We often use the term brotherly nation, brotherly people. And today we see that Ukraine is in a difficult situation, economically, socially and politically," Putin said at his annual press conference.
"If we really say that this is a brotherly people and a brotherly country then we must act like close relatives and help the Ukrainian people in this difficult situation."
Putin denied the assistance package had anything to do with the mass protests in Kiev or the Ukrainian government's aborted move to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.
Protesters are still occupying Independence Square in Kiev, known locally as the Maidan, in a bid to persuade the government to sign the EU pact which would mark a major break with the Kremlin.
"It is not linked to the Maidan or the negotiations with Ukraine and the European Union," Putin said.
During talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday Putin agreed to buy $15 billion (11 billion euros) of Ukraine's debt in eurobonds and slash its gas bill by a third, a move economists said would stave off the risk of a Ukrainian default for now.
He described the new gas agreement as "temporary" and said a long-term solution needed to be found that would allow Ukraine to keep the new lower price.
© 2013 AFP