Russia agrees $18.9b bailout of Ukraine, fuelling protests
MOSCOW (REUTERS) - Russia agreed a US$15 billion (S$18.9 billion) bailout for Ukraine and slashed the price of gas exports on Tuesday under a deal that keeps the cash-strapped country in Moscow's orbit but fuelled street protests in Kiev.
Mr Vladimir Putin's lifeline to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was a triumph for the Russian leader in a geopolitical battle with the Europe Union. But the deal saddles Russia with a heavy financial burden and he failed to lure Ukraine into a customs union with other ex-Soviet republics.
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Kiev within hours of the agreement and accused Mr Yanukovich of selling his country to the highest bidder after walking away from a trade deal with the EU.
"He has given up Ukraine's national interests, given up independence and prospects for a better life for every Ukrainian," Mr Vitaly Klitschko, a protest leader and heavyweight boxing champion, told crowds on Kiev's Independence Square.