* Ukraine has spurned free trade pact with EU
* Yanukovich seeks loans, gas price reduction from Moscow
* Kremlin aide says Moscow would be ready to consider loan
MOSCOW, Dec 16 A Kremlin aide made clear on
Monday that Russia was ready to extend a credit to Ukraine to
help Kiev cope with its economic problems and keep the country
in Moscow's orbit.
Economic adviser Andrei Belousov said it was possible that a
credit could be agreed at talks on Tuesday between Russian
President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor
Yanukovich, who has turned to Moscow for help after spurning a
free trade deal with the European Union last month.
"I do not rule out that, if there is a request, a credit
could be provided (to Ukraine)," Interfax news agency quoted
Belousov as saying.
"The situation in Ukraine is now such that without loans,
from one side or another, they will simply fail to maintain
Ukraine is seeking help to cover an external funding gap of
$17 billion next year - almost the level of the central bank's
depleted currency reserves.
Belousov did not say how much Russia might be ready to loan
Yanukovich has faced street protests since Kiev's U-turn
away from Europe, but Ukrainian officials have made clear they
do not think the EU is prepared to come up with enough money to
help Ukraine through its economic difficulties.
The EU on Sunday suspended work on the trade and political
pact it has been negotiating with Ukraine, and has accused
Russia of putting heavy pressure on the former Soviet republic
not to move closer to the EU.
But Yanukovich has not said whether he will bow to Russia's
calls to take his country into a Moscow-led customs union with
Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Apart from loans, Ukraine is seeking a lower price for
Russian gas - now at around $400 per 1,000 cubic metres - to
help it cope with its debt burden.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was quoted as saying
on Sunday that he hoped a deal on a cheaper price for gas
deliveries would be concluded.