Putin vows to honour loan if Ukraine opposition takes over

AFP , Tuesday 28 Jan 2014

President Vladimir Putin pledged Tuesday that Russia would maintain a $15 billion loan and cuts on energy prices to Ukraine even if the opposition came to power.

"In direct answer to your question as to whether we will review our agreements on loans and energy if the opposition comes to power - no we will not," Putin told a news conference at the close of talks in Brussels with the European Union's top officials.

Moscow offered the loan and agreed to cut gas prices and defer energy payments late last year as the economically-embattled government of President Viktor Yanokovych suddenly refused to sign a trade and political agreement with the EU.

Yanokovych's decision to look east to Moscow rather than west triggered two months of pro-EU protests that have descended into violence and on Tuesday caused the resignation of the Kiev government.

Putin said Russia had in the past enjoyed "a constructive dialogue" with ex-premier and currently jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

"We agreed about everything with her. For us, this is not a taboo, to speak to representatives of all political powers in Ukraine," Putin said.

Yanukovych's decision in November to renege on signing a partnership deal with the EU followed EU demands for Tymoshenko's release coupled with IMF conditions to proceed with a loan to Ukraine, as well as sharp Russian trade and political pressure.

"But what is of principal importance to us is that the Ukrainian economy is credit-worthy," Putin went on.

"We want the government of Ukraine to make structural changes so that we would have a guarantee that we get our back our credit. After all, despite our large gold and hard currency reserves, the reserves of the government, $15 billion is the amount the entire IMF planned to give to Ukraine.

"And Russia is doing this on its own. And we want to be sure that this money comes back."

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