* Medvedev leads Russian criticism of Ukraine's new leaders
* Putin stays silent on pro-European shift in Ukraine
* $15 billion financial bailout package in question
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW, Feb 24 Russia said on Monday it would
not deal with those it said stole power in "an armed mutiny" in
Ukraine, sending the strongest signal yet that Moscow does not
want to be drawn into a bidding war with the West in its
Querying the legitimacy of the new pro-European authorities
after the Ukrainian parliament's removal of the Kremlin-backed
president following months of unrest, Prime Minister Dmitry
Medvedev said he saw no one to do business with in Kiev.
He did not declare a $15-billion bailout for Ukraine dead,
although its future is in question, but signalled that a deal
which cut the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas had an expiry
date and that any extension would have to be negotiated.
With President Vladimir Putin still basking in the afterglow
of Russia's success at the Sochi Winter Olympics, it has been
left to aides to address a crisis that has not turned out as he
wanted and reduced Russian clout in Ukraine.
Putin's silence about the fall of Viktor Yanukovich has been
filled by allies' accusations of betrayal in Ukraine, of a
Western-orchestrated coup and suggestions that there could be a
split or civil war in the ex-Soviet republic of 46 million.
"Strictly speaking there is no one to talk to there. There
are big doubts about the legitimacy of a whole series of organs
of power that are now functioning there," Medvedev told Russian
"Some of our foreign partners think differently, they
believe they are legitimate ... I don't know which constitution
they've read ... But it seems to me it is an aberration to call
legitimate what is essentially the result of an armed mutiny."
Ukraine's new authorities issued an arrest warrant on
Monday for mass murder against Yanukovich, now on the run after
being toppled by bloody street protests in which police snipers
killed opposition demonstrators.
The former Soviet republic appealed on Monday for financial
assistance to stave off bankruptcy; its debts include more than
$1 billion in unpaid gas bills to Russia for 2013.
Prices are negotiated each quarter - one of the last levers
Moscow could pull in a battle with the West for influence in
Ukraine, which was under Moscow's thumb in the Soviet era.
"The decision in the gas sphere, which was adopted, has
concrete time periods for implementation," Medvedev said.
"What will happen after these expire is a question for
discussion with the leadership of Ukrainian companies and the
Ukrainian government, if one emerges there."
WAITING FOR A SIGN
Officials at state gas company Gazprom made clear
they were waiting for a signal from the Kremlin to act.
The Foreign Ministry also took a firm line, portraying the
new authorities in Kiev as extremists and accusing the West of
making "unilateral, geopolitical calculations".
The strong language is partly intended to sell the new
situation to a Russian public which until this weekend had been
told Moscow had backed a winner in Yanukovich.
On the air waves and in print, outrage and dismay over
Yanukovich's political demise has given way to derision towards
a leader who allowed Ukraine to slip from his grasp and open the
gates of power to brothers who "in fact, hate us".
As the popular Russian daily Moskovsky Komsomolets summed it
up: "Yanukovich falls - Whatever".
While Putin made little effort to hide his distaste in
dealing with Yanukovich, a former electrician who vacillated
over closer ties with the EU or with Russia, he may now have to
argue that both he and his successors are illegitimate rulers.
"Yanukovich is now a wanted man. Just four days ago,
everything depended on him and he was needed by everyone. Now
he's just needed by those who want to arrest him," said Alexei
Pushkov, a Putin loyalist and a senior member of parliament.
"When we talk about 'brotherly' Ukraine, we must take into
account that half of the population does not consider us
brothers, and the radical part just hates us."
By playing for time, Putin may be banking on Ukraine's
complex make-up - Russian-speaking regions to the east and south
and Ukrainian-speaking regions in the west - complicating EU and
U.S. efforts to unite Ukraine's new leadership.
He may alternatively have decided that the economic cost of
winning over Ukraine in December was too high, and that it is
better to let the EU foot the bill. Or, as one Ukrainian analyst
suggested, it may not have a clear policy yet.
"Russia has no strategy on Ukraine at the moment. Russia is
not delighted with what happened, but has already shown that the
relations between the two countries have cooled," said Volodymyr
Fedosenko of the Penta think tank in Kiev.
"Russia will express doubts about the legitimacy of the new
government and indirectly support resistance, but Russia will be
forced to recognise the new authorities because there is no