By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV/MOSCOW (BosNewsLife)– Russia has begun transferring billions of dollars to Ukraine as part of a controversial economic deal that critics say is aimed at re-establishing the Soviet Union, and amid concerns over the mistreatment of pro-EU activists.
Russia said it transferred the first two billion euros of a 10 billion euro bailout, some $15 billion. President Vladimir Putin offered Ukraine the lifeline last week, along with a pledge to reduce the price Kyiv pays for Russian natural gas by a third.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov is pleased the money arrived, just in time for Orthodox Christmas. “It is a very significant stabilising factor for Ukraine,” he told reporters. “Thanks to the agreement, Ukraine’s credit rating has improved, which means the country has left the zone – the financial situation – which we found ourselves in.”
Commentators say it is an attempt to keep Ukraine firmly within Moscow’s influence and outside the European Union.
Ukraine’s prime minister was already in Moscow to observe a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, which will become a controversial customs union, formed by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Russia made clear it wants Ukraine to join, despite ongoing massive demonstrations by pro-EU protesters who fear the re-establishment of the Soviet Union.
The deal also comes amid concerns over threats against Ukrainian activists, including anti-corruption journalist Tatyana Chornovol. Internet footage shows she was driving home when her car was repeatedly rammed by a sports utility vehicle on Tuesday.
Three men then attacked and beat the woman, who was rushed to an intensive care unit with a broken nose, concussion and numerous bruises.
At least two men were reportedly detained following the revelations.
The journalist is known in Ukraine for investigating the wealthy life of top officials.
Shortly before she was attacked, Chornovol reported on the Interior Minister life style, and last year she managed to post photos of President Yanukovich’s golf course and a house boat.
The president has distanced himself from the violence, ordering a criminal investigation into the attack.