Russia to buy $15B in Ukraine bonds
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday opened his wallet in the battle with the European Union over Ukraine's future, saying Moscow will buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds and sharply cut the price of natural gas for its economically struggling neighbour.
The announcements came after Putin held talks in Moscow with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who is facing massive protests at home for his decision to shelve a pact with the EU in favour of closer ties with Moscow. Russia's bailout package angered protesters, who immediately accused Yanukovych of selling the country out to the Kremlin and pressed demands for his ouster.
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.
While Putin sought to calm protesters in Kyiv by saying he and Yanukovych didn't discuss the prospect of Ukraine joining the Russian-dominated Customs Union, the sweeping Kremlin agreements vexed demonstrators who want Ukraine to break from Russia's orbit and integrate with the 28-nation EU.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said after the Kremlin talks that Russia would purchase $15 billion in Ukraine's Eurobonds starting this month. The money would come from Russia's National Welfare Fund that accumulates oil and gas revenues.
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