Putin meets Ukraine's Yanukovych on Sochi sidelines
- 8 February 2014
- From the section Europe
Russian President Vladimir Putin met his embattled Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, officials say.
Neither side would confirm what was discussed during the informal conversation during the opening ceremony in the Russian city of Sochi.
Russia has frozen delivery of a $15bn (£9bn) bailout programme pending the formation of a new government in Kiev.
Mass anti-government protests erupted in Ukraine in late November.
Under pressure from Moscow, President Yanukovych had refused to sign a far-reaching association and trade agreement with the EU.
Amid continuing protests, Mr Yanukovych has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov - widely seen as pro-Moscow - and a new prime minister has yet to be nominated.
Struggle for influence
The meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Yanukovych in Sochi on Friday evening was confirmed by senior Russian and Ukrainian officials.
There was no information about what was discussed, but correspondents speculate it was likely to include the suspended Russian financial package - which Ukraine desperately needs in the face of a sliding currency, dwindling foreign reserves and rising borrowing costs.
Last week Ukraine's central bank imposed new capital controls in a bid to shore up the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnya.
Mr Yanukovych's meeting with Mr Putin follows talks in Kiev last Wednesday between Mr Yanukovych and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
In the face of protracted protests gripping Kiev and elsewhere, Ukraine has become an arena for a struggle for influence between traditional ally Russia and the West, say correspondents.
But a recorded phone call which emerged on Thursday has put on show differences between the US and EU.
Washington's European envoy Victoria Nuland was heard using an expletive to disparage the EU's handling of the crisis and revealing Washington's determination to influence the outcome of the Ukrainian struggle.
The insult has been called "totally unacceptable" by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ms Nuland is said to have privately apologised to EU officials.
However, the US has hinted that Russia may have had a role in bugging and then leaking the conversation.
Another huge demonstration by pro-EU protesters is planned for Kiev's Maidan (Independence Square) on Sunday.
Leading Ukrainian lawmakers are then expected to meet on Monday to discuss opposition proposals to curtail presidential powers and return to a constitution the country had until 2010 that granted extended powers to parliament, said AFP news agency.