Dec.19 - After nearly a month of protests in Kiev against Ukraine's policy U-turn towards Russia, Presidents Putin and Yanukovich defend the deal reached between the two countries, in set-piece news conferences. David Pollard reports.
It's nearly a month now. Almost four weeks of daily protests against Ukraine's decision to back away from ties with Europe - in favour of a deal with Russia. Timely, then, that the leaders of both countries set out their positions. President Putin went first. Russia, he said, acted to help a brother nation in Ukraine. Its 15 billion dollar bailout and gas export deal had nothing to with the protests - nor with the EU. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "Are we against the association? We are not against the association at all, we just simply say that we will have to protect our economy, because the gates are open when we have a free trade agreement with Ukraine - we cannot leave it unchanged if Ukraine opens its doors to the European Union. " Ukraine's President Yanukovich took his turn, in another set piece news conference. Steering a careful line, he had this message, implicitly aimed at the West. SOUNDBITE (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT, VIKTOR YANUKOVICH, SAYING: "It is very important that other countries do not interfere in our internal questions and that they do not consider that they are the masters here, anywhere, or anywhere else. I am categorically against anybody coming and teaching us how to live here." IMF debt repayments and high gas prices meant Ukraine had no choice but to take the deal with Russia. He played down the damage done to closer ties with the EU. SOUNDBITE (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT, VIKTOR YANUKOVICH, SAYING: "There are no contradictions for Ukraine for any integration. In fact, we are talking not about integration but about economic relations." Protesters in Kiev say he should resign. With some leading party officials deserting him since the crisis began, his chances of reelection in 2015 are looking slimmer. And Yanukovich himself went on to say that if his poll ratings are low in 2015, he will not run again.