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Ukraine bankrupt without Moscow deal: PM

KIEV--Ukraine's prime minister on Wednesday defended a deal with the Kremlin that the opposition decried as a sellout to Russia, saying that Kiev had avoided bankruptcy and social collapse thanks to the “historic” bailout.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the agreement clinched between President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday was the only way to rescue the economy after five consecutive quarters of negative growth.

A proposed Association Agreement with the European Union — whose shelving by the government sparked a month of mass protests in Kiev — would only have dragged the country further into the mire, he said.

“What would have awaited Ukraine (without the deal)? The answer is clear — bankruptcy and social collapse,” Azarov said as he opened a cabinet meeting.

“This would have been the New Year's present for the people of Ukraine,” he added with characteristic irony, describing the Moscow accord as a “historic event”.

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Opposition activists hold a protest in front of Rinat Akhmetov's office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Rinat Akhmetov is Ukraine's richest man and the main sponsor of President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling Regions Party.

(AFP)

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