Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is to discuss closer co-operation with Russia, as protests continue in Ukraine over his move not to sign an EU deal.
Securing badly needed loans and a discount on Russia's gas are reportedly on the agenda when Mr Yanukovych meets President Vladimir Putin, BBC reported.But pro-EU protesters in Ukraine fear Mr Yanukovych may sign an accord tying Kiev to the Russian-led Customs Union.His U-turn on the EU association deal last month sparked the mass protests.Mr Yanukovych has admitted his decision was influenced by heavy pressure from Russia.The current protests, the largest since Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, are aimed at pushing Mr Yanukovych to dismiss his government and call snap elections.'Wrong' visit
Mr Yanukovych is expected to meet Mr Putin at 15:00 local time (11:00 GMT).With talks on resuming credit from the International Monetary Fund stalled, Ukraine requires urgent financial assistance in the coming months to keep the economy afloat.Kiev also needs to find about $17bn (£10bn) next year to pay its gas bill to Russia.Ahead of the Moscow meeting, the Ukrainian foreign ministry dismissed media reports that Customs Union deals could be signed by Mr Yanukovych and Mr Putin.However, Mr Putin's aide, Andrey Belousov, was quoted as saying that such agreements may be on the agenda.Vitali Klitschko, a Ukrainian opposition leader, said "no-one from the media or amongst Ukraine's citizens knows the true aim of this visit and we will only know afterwards.""I'm sure that the visit is wrong and nobody knows the conditions of these negotiations," he added."If the (Customs Union) agreement is signed, he (Mr Yanukovych) can remain in Moscow and not return to Kiev," another opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned.Last weekend, some 200,000 pro-EU protesters in Kiev agreed a resolution banning Mr Yanukovych to sign any agreements related to the Customs Union.The opposition is now planning another huge rally later on Tuesday.Call for EU cash
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers on Monday used a high-level meeting to reassure Russia that a possible association free trade deal with Ukraine would not undermine Moscow's interests.Russia fears that such a deal would damage the country's economy by letting in a massive flow of EU products via Ukraine.Moscow wants Kiev to join the Customs Union instead of signing the EU pact.The Russian-led union now also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan, but pro-EU protesters regard the grouping as modern embodiment of the Soviet Union.Mr Yanukovych has said he eventually aims to sign the EU deal.However, he expressed fears this will put at risk many enterprises dependent on trade with Russia.He also stressed that EU would need to provide at least 20bn euros (£17bn; $27bn) a year to upgrade Ukraine's economy.ANN.Az