Putin Tells Ukraine Leader He Expects Progress in Ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, that he’s counting on further strengthening ties.

In a New Year’s greeting, Putin thanked Yanukovych for “comradely, businesslike” relations that allowed the two former Soviet neighbors to develop a partnership benefiting “brotherly peoples.”

The coming year should provide an opportunity to achieve “new results,” expanding mutually beneficial cooperation in key areas, Putin said, according to a statement posted on the Kremlin website today.

Russia agreed earlier this month to buy $15 billion in Ukrainian Eurobonds and cut the price it charges for gas by 30 percent after Ukraine pulled out of an association agreement with the European Union.

The decision to halt talks with the EU sparked the largest street protests since 2004 in the capital Kiev and other cities, with activists demanding the departure of Yanukovych and his cabinet. Ukraine sought a bailout to stay afloat while struggling with the third recession since 2008.

Russia has paid for the first $3 billion of Ukrainian two-year Eurobonds with a 5 percent yield. Ukraine expects to get the remaining $12 billion from Russia early next year, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said at a government meeting in Kiev on Dec. 25. He called the loan “a turning point” in stabilizing Ukraine’s finances and economy.

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