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Russia turns screws on Ukraine

Bocharov Ruchei (Russia), Feb. 8 (Reuters): Russia increased economic pressure on Ukraine today by drawing a link between disbursement of the next tranche of its $15 billion aid package to Kiev with repayment of a hefty gas bill owed to Russian firms.

The linkage, made in comments by Russia’s finance minister, came as the Kremlin confirmed President Vladimir Putin had held private talks with Ukraine’s leader Viktor Yanukovich in Sochi yesterday before the opening of the Winter Olympics.

No details of the leaders’ talks were disclosed.

Moscow agreed on credits and cheaper gas for Kiev in December to help it meet huge debt payments, gaining the edge over the EU in a tug-of-war for influence in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic of 46 million people.

 
 
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