As Washington and European Union leaders continued to squeeze Ukraine on Monday, supporting riots to overthrow its government, and mooting Ukrainian bankruptcy in order to force it to bow to European Union demands, Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and his ministers were leaving for Moscow for the sixth annual meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Intergovernmental Commission, to be chaired jointly by the two presidents on Dec 17. The Commission is to discuss a broad range of economic issues, but both governments have said that Ukraine’s joining the Russia-Belarus-Kazakstan Customs Union, soon to be renamed the Eurasian Customs Union, is not on the agenda at this time.
But there will certainly be discussion of a Russian loan which might keep Ukraine afloat in the face of EU blackmail. The Financial Times and others quote Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief economic advisor, Andrei Belousov, who said, “I do not rule out that if there is a request, credit could be provided. The situation in Ukraine is now such that without loans, from one side or another, they will simply fail to maintain economic stability.”
Reuters reports that the Russian Finance Ministry has confirmed that loan talks are under way.
Another vital question is the price of Russian natural gas to Ukraine. The chairman of the parliamentary faction of Ukraine’s ruling Party of the Regions, Alexander Yefremov, told reporters Monday that Ukraine may also reach an agreement on a new Russian gas price for the country at the Dec 17 meeting, according to ITAR-Tass. “If the protocol is signed, the price will be known on Tuesday evening or on Wednesday,” he said. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov had said earlier, “I hope that we will finalize the [gas price] problem at this meeting.”
Azarov said further that the two sides would sign a “road map” to “remove the vast majority of controversies in trade, eliminating problems over customs and product standards.”
At just the same time, meeting with EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov supported Ukraine President Yanukovych’s November proposal, which the EU has rejected, for trilateral talks between Ukraine, Russia and the EU.
“It would be only logical, before moving fairly insistently to propose various arrangements for further cooperation with Ukraine, in this case with the EU, to sit down and look at what the consequences of various components might be for all participants in the process, given the huge volume of trade, economic, and investment ties, not to mention humanitarian ties, among all these countries,” he said according to Interfax-Ukraine. “Trilateral interaction would be entirely justified.”