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Russia cuts Ukraine gas prices

Moscow, Dec. 17 (Reuters): Russia agreed to a $15-billion bailout for Ukraine and slashed the price of gas exports today under a deal that keeps the cash-strapped country in Moscow’s orbit but fuelled street protests in Kiev.

Vladimir Putin’s agreement with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was a triumph for the Russian leader in a geopolitical battle with Europe. But he failed to lure Ukraine into a customs union with other ex-Soviet republics and the deal is a heavy financial burden for Russia.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered within hours of the deal in Kiev and accused Yanukovich of selling his country to the highest bidder after walking away from a trade deal with Europe.

“He has given up Ukraine’s national interests, given up independence and prospects for a better life for every Ukrainian,” Vitaly Klitschko, a protest leader and heavyweight boxing champion, said in Kiev.

The US said any agreement between Ukraine and Russia would not address the concerns of the protesters.

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