(QHA) - Russia has promised Ukraine $15 billion in loans and cheaper natural gas amid ongoing protests in Kyiv calling for closer ties with the European Union rather than Moscow. The deals were announced after a meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych. Putin said the price of gas supplies to Ukraine would be cut by about one-third to $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters, from about $400. He said it was a "temporary solution, bearing in mind that long term contracts should and will be agreed upon regarding both gas supplies to Ukraine and ensuring an uninterrupted transit [of gas] to Russian customers in Europe." Putin did not elaborate on the duration of the deal. But Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boyko said later the price cut would take effect on January 1, 2014, and would be valid until 2019. Putin also announced that Russia would convert $15 billion worth of its National Welfare Fund, an emergency fund, into Ukrainian securities. Ukraine urgently needs some $10 billion for looming debt repayments. The announced deal boosted the price of Ukraine's dollar debt, a sign of investors' confidence. Russia also agreed to remove trade barriers it put up at the beginning of the year as reprisals for what at the time seemed as Yanukovych's clear intention to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. But Yanukovych last month unexpectedly scuppered the key deal with the EU, sparking a huge protest movement.

QHA