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Ukraine-Russia Loan Talks Said to Be for as Much as $15 Billion

Monday, 16 Dec 2013 07:45 AM

Ukraine is in talks with Russia for a loan of as much as $15 billion as President Viktor Yanukovych prepares to head to Moscow after a weekend of mass protest in Kiev, two people familiar with the negotiations said.

The two sides are also discussing the price Ukraine pays for the natural gas it buys from its eastern neighbor, said the people who asked not to be identified because the talks haven’t been completed. Ukraine may receive as much as $5 billion this year, one of the people said. Russia’s finance ministry confirmed that the sides were negotiating a loan, without further details. Vitaliy Lukyanenko, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s spokesman, declined to comment.

Yanukovych is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow tomorrow as the economy struggles with its third recession since 2008 and foreign-currency reserves are at a seven-year low. The country needs at least $10 billion to avoid default, First Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov said Dec. 7. The government has failed to reach a deal over a $15 billion facility with the International Monetary Fund, disagreeing over energy subsidies.

The second-most populous ex-Soviet country last month backed out of a trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia, sparking the country’s biggest protests in almost a decade. Yanukovych walked away from the EU deal after Russia, which supplies 60 percent of Ukraine’s natural gas and buys a quarter of its exports, threatened trade sanctions.

‘Purely Economic’

Azarov on Nov. 22 said motivation for scuppering the treaty was “purely economic,” with the government making the “only possible” choice. A decline in trade with Russia has led to falling industrial production, “pushing Ukraine to the edge of huge social and economic troubles,” he told lawmakers in Kiev a day after making the u-turn. Signing the EU accords would have pushed the country into default, he said Dec. 13.

Putin and Yanukovych will lead discussions in Moscow tomorrow, with a “substantial” package of agreements set to be signed, the Kremlin said in an e-mailed statement. Officials will discuss the key questions of bilateral relations, including energy, agriculture, investments and others, according to the statement.

The prospect of a Russian deal boosted Ukrainian assets, pushing the yield on the government’s dollar debt due in 2023 down 11 basis points, or 0.11 percentage point, to 10.16 percent on Dec. 13, the lowest since a Nov. 30 police crackdown on protesters, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The yield was 10.17 percent at 12:52 p.m. in Kiev.

The cost of insuring the country’s debt for five years using credit-default swaps, the third-highest in the world after Argentina and Venezuela, declined 37 basis points to 1,050, also the lowest since then, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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