* Deputy prime minister says second part of loan not agreed
* EU, Russia relations strained by Ukraine crisis
* Putin, EU leaders try to clear the air at summit
By Alexei Anishchuk and Justyna Pawlak
BRUSSELS, Jan 28 Russia will honour its pledge
to lend Ukraine $15 billion and reduce the price of gas it
supplies to its neighbour even if the opposition forms the next
government, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
However, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said
soon afterwards that Russia and Ukraine had no agreement yet on
the second tranche of the $15 billion loan.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned on Tuesday
following weeks of protests at President Viktor Yanukovich's
decision in November to turn his back on a trade and cooperation
agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with
Russia agreed on credits and cheaper gas for Kiev in
December to help its fellow former Soviet republic meet huge
debt payments, appearing to give Moscow the edge over Brussels
in a tug-of-war for influence over Ukraine.
The deepening political crisis in Ukraine has strained
relations between Russian and EU leaders, who have accused each
other of interfering in Ukraine's affairs. Relations have also
been soured by disputes over trade and energy, for which the EU
relies heavily on Russia.
"Regarding your question whether we will review our
agreements on loans and the energy sector if the opposition will
take power ... No, we will not," Putin said after three hours of
talks aimed at clearing the air with EU leaders.
The loan was to "support the people of Ukraine, not the
government. It's the people, the common people that suffer,"
Putin told a news conference, standing side-by-side with
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European
Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
However, Putin made clear that Russia would closely monitor
Ukraine's economic policies to make sure it got its money back.
GET MONEY BACK
"Despite our large gold and currency reserves, government
reserves, $15 billion is the amount that the IMF (International
Monetary Fund), a major global organisation, was planning to
give to Ukraine. Russia is alone giving it and we want to be
sure we get this money back," he said.
"Therefore it is important regardless of which political
force leads the government, what economic policy they are
intending to apply," he said.
The Ukrainian government said on Monday it was issuing $2
billion in Eurobonds to Russia on the same terms as in December,
bringing the total amount borrowed - over two years at an
interest rate of 5 percent - to $5 billion.
However, Shuvalov, Russia's deputy prime minister, told
reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine had not
agreed terms on the second tranche of the loan.
"We have not had any specific agreements before the
resignation of (Azarov) on the terms of the second tranche. The
finance ministries are holding talks," he said.
"Regardless of which government is formed in Ukraine, we
will proceed with our agenda of relaunching the Ukraine economy
and promoting economic ties. If the position of the new
government is different, we will have the right to consider this
issue, report to the president and see how the situation
develops," he added.
The EU's strategy of seeking closer political and economic
relations with ex-Soviet states was left in tatters when Kiev
spurned the EU after Moscow tightened checks on imports from
Ukraine and threatened to cut off its gas supplies. Armenia had
already opted to join a Moscow-led customs union.
Russia feared an EU-Ukraine trade deal would damage its
economy. To calm its concerns, the EU and Russia agreed on
Tuesday to hold expert talks on the economic consequences for
both sides of EU trade agreements with Moscow's neighbours.
Instead of the normal two-day summit, the EU cut out dinner
with Putin on Monday night, sending a message to the Russian
leader that it was no longer "business as usual".
Two topless activists from the Ukrainian feminist group
Femen staged an anti-Putin protest outside the building where
the summit was held hours before the Russian leader arrived.
With the phrases "Good job Putin" and "Putin killer of
democracy" written in black ink on their bare chests, the
activists chanted "Viva Putin, Viva killer".
The activists said they were protesting against Putin's role
in the Ukraine crisis.