Europe

Media divided on Russia-Ukraine deal

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (L) gives a wink to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony after a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission at the Kremlin in Moscow.
Image caption President Yanukovych (L) and Vladimir Putin signed the deal on Tuesday

The agreement signed between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin in Moscow, dominates the media headlines of both countries.

In Ukraine, there is hand-wringing among some commentators about what price Kiev will have to pay for Mr Putin's offer to buy $15bn worth of Ukrainian government bonds and take a third off the price Russia charges Ukraine for gas.

The Russian media adopt an almost triumphant tone, but doubt is expressed over how Russia will finance its loans to Ukraine.

Worst fears?

A presenter on Ukraine's One Plus One channel, owned by tycoon Ihor Kolomoyskyy, described the agreements as "sensational", while pro-opposition channel TVi said they were "decisive" in the contest between the West and Russia for influence in Ukraine.

State-owned channel UT1 took care to emphasise that the two leaders did not discuss Ukraine's accession to the Russia-led Customs Union, and focused on gas prices and the loan instead.

A source in the Ukrainian delegation told the pro-government tabloid Segodnya that Mr Putin had wanted to avoid pushing things too far, "for fear of pitting the entire country against him".

In the Ukrainian press, business daily Kommersant Ukraina noted that the talks had "completely excluded any possibility of taking the EU into account".

Opinion was divided about what the outcome meant for Ukraine.

ICTV, a private channel owned by billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, was pessimistic, predicting that the meeting in Moscow was a "dress rehearsal for Ukraine's entry into the Customs Union" and that the worst fears of the opposition, protesters and experts had come true.

A presenter on pro-EU channel 5 Kanal argued that Moscow was "buying the strategic and geopolitical loyalty" of Kiev.

In contrast, Ukraine's most popular channel, Inter, which is run by gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash, was optimistic, saying: "Ukraine has achieved what it wanted" on the "most vital issues".

'Compliance'

The pro-Russian tabloid, Vesti, took a triumphant tone, saying that the deal was "payment for refusing to sign the agreement with the EU", but the pro-Russian tabloid, Komsomolskaya Pravda v Ukraine, conceded that according to experts, Russia would demand "something in return for its compliance" such as Ukraine buying more gas.

Pro-government analyst Vyacheslav Pikhovshek applauded Ukraine for standing its ground. "The fact that not a single document on the Customs Union has been signed proves that our country has not compromised its sovereignty in any way. Meanwhile, Russia has proved that it is ready to compete for Ukraine," he said on the Levyy Bereg website.

But in a report entitled "Yanukovych goes to bed with Moscow. For what?" the popular Ukrayinska Pravda news website said that the aim of the talks was simply to allow Mr Yanukovych to remain in power until the 2015 election. "The Russians will get something in return ... What exactly is a big secret."

The Glavkom news website also warned that, after a while, Mr Yanukovych would take Ukraine into the Customs Union.

"Yanukovych's trip to Moscow confirmed… the opposition's fears: the 'free cheese' everyone was so afraid of was indeed offered by the Kremlin."

'Story of the year'

In Russia, the official state-run TV channels showed little appetite for understatement with headlines on Rossiya 1 TV referring to the deal as "not just the news story of the day, but of the year". A correspondent on state-controlled Channel One TV also described the gas price cut as a "sensation".

In the Russian press, however, experts interviewed by newspapers were doubtful about the effectiveness of Russia using its National Welfare Fund to fund the $15bn loan to Ukraine.

Business daily Vedomosti said Russia was drawing on "all reserves available" to help Ukraine, while HSBC's chief economist for Russia and Ukraine, Alexander Morozov, warned that the National Welfare Fund's money - in theory designed to back Russia's state pension - was being invested in "risky assets".

Mr Morozov was also sceptical about the benefits for Ukraine. "The Russian support will only deter the threat of default for the nearest two years, but will not resolve Ukrainian problems," he said.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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