Putin says Russia had to help 'brotherly' Ukraine

MOSCOW Thu Dec 19, 2013 3:40am EST

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich button their jackets during a signing ceremony after a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 17, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich button their jackets during a signing ceremony after a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia had to act to help its "brotherly" neighbor Ukraine out of economic crisis and that Moscow did not oppose Kiev signing a trade pact with Europe as long as it did not harm Russia's economy.

"Now we see that Ukraine is in difficult straits ... if we really say that they are a brotherly nation and people then we must act like close relatives and help this nation," Putin said in an annual news conference.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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